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Supermarkets give workers raises amid coronavirus pandemic

A customer pushed a shopping cart out of the South Bay Stop & Shop in 2019.
A customer pushed a shopping cart out of the South Bay Stop & Shop in 2019.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Workers at Stop & Shop, Star Market, and Shaw’s are getting temporary raises as they scramble to keep shelves full during the coronavirus pandemic that has made grocery shopping one of life’s few acceptable excursions.

Stop & Shop announced Saturday that it will give a 10 percent raise to current hourly employees of the supermarket and its Peapod delivery service who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The company also will provide an extra two weeks of paid leave to union workers if they become sick with COVID-19.

The union represents more than 70,000 Stop & Shop workers across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. The raise goes into effect Sunday and will last at least through May 2.

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Separately, the parent company of Shaw’s and Star Market announced Saturday that both union and non-union workers will receive an extra $2 per hour for at least the period from March 15 to March 28, with the possibility of an extension. The raise affects about 230,000 workers employed by the parent company, Albertsons, which owns stores in 34 states, including Safeway, Jewel-Osco, and United Supermarkets, in addition to Star Market and Shaw’s.

Albertsons said in a statement that the pay bump recognizes the hard work of its “e-commerce pickers and drivers, store associates, distribution center associates and manufacturing plant associates” on the front lines of its operation.

The chains join Whole Foods, which announced Monday that it would pay all part-time and full-time hourly employees in the US and Canada an extra $2 per hour through the end of April, just as the upscale grocery chain’s parent company, Amazon, has done for its hourly employees. Whole Foods employees in the UK will receive an extra 2£ per hour.

Wegmans is offering both hourly and salaried workers a $2 per hour pay hike, retroactive to March 1 and lasting at least until the end of April, the company said Saturday. Wegmans also has enhanced its disability pay policy for workers affected by the virus and offered a voluntary leave program with job protections, as well as other resources through its employee assistance program.

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A Stop & Shop spokeswoman said in a statement that the company recognizes “that our associates are doing extraordinary work to serve our communities during the COVID-19 emergency.”

“We want our associates to be able to focus on their physical health at this time — without having to worry about financial stability,” the spokeswoman, Jennifer Brogan, said.

Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said in a statement that Stop & Shop’s raise and paid leave policy “will not only protect these hard-working men and women, it will help protect the food supply throughout our communities.”

“As we know, grocery workers like Stop & Shop employees have been on the front lines of this crisis, serving the needs of millions of families in the northeast,” Perrone continued. “Protecting them is absolutely essential to our communities and food supply now more than ever.”

Vivek Sankaran, chief executive of Albertsons, said the country had changed overnight, and businesses have to respond.

“These times are unprecedented in the grocery industry,” Sankaran said in a statement. “This simple ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem like quite enough — and we hope our sincere appreciation with this program is a start.”

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Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.