The hazard pay is disappearing. The hazard is not.

Some essential employees across the U.S. have received bonuses or pay bumps to compensate for the risk that comes with clocking in at supermarkets, hospitals and other crowded workplaces during a pandemic.

Now companies are walking back those wage increases, even as the threat of Covid-19 lingers.

This weekend, Kroger Co. is rescinding the $2 raise it gave to store and warehouse workers. Target Corp. and Inc. will follow later this month, with other firms charting similar moves.

The planned cutbacks have rankled unions, employees and customers who are accusing companies of putting profits ahead of worker well-being. They also raise questions about how to value the essential workers who are keeping society functioning. Many continue to put their health and safety on the line in exchange for relatively low wages.

“How do you go from a hero to zero when there’s still a pandemic out there?” said Steve Vairma, secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ Local 455 in Denver, whose members include Kroger distribution center workers. “What has changed? Our folks are still risking their safety and health by showing up for work.”

What’s changed, some experts say, is the gradual lifting of shelter-in-place orders that has people returning to workplaces. The pay premiums were meant to compensate those who had no choice but to come in, said Adrienne Altman, managing director at HR-consulting firm Willis Towers Watson Plc.

“When everyone’s back, there’s no reason for that offset,” Altman said.

But the virus, which has infected more than 1 million Americans and killed over 80,000, remains, and workplaces are still potential hotspots.

Employers, for their part, say they’ve made efforts to increase worker safety. Kroger, which will end its so-called “hero bonus” on May 16, said it will continue to offer employees testing, emergency leave and face masks. In April, it also gave full-time workers a $300 bonus and part-timers half that.

First « 1 2 3 » Next