By Martinne Geller
LONDON (Reuters) – Kraft Heinz <KHC.O> will extend for two weeks a $100 per week stipend for factory workers producing its packaged foods during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said on Wednesday.
“Kraft Heinz has made the decision to extend the $100 per week stipend for another two weeks and we will continue to evaluate this special compensation program as the situation evolves,” a spokesman for the U.S.-based maker of Heinz ketchup and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese said in an emailed statement.
The stipend covers factories in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Conditions for its factory workers were called out this week by a chapter of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) representing 227 of 250 employees at a Kraft Heinz factory in Holland, Michigan, where two people tested positive for the coronavirus and three others are presumed to have it.
The union complained that the essential pay bonuses were tied to employee attendance, and called for a repeal.
“Our members more than deserve essential pay, but it cannot be tied to their attendance,” RWDSU Local 705 said in a statement. “Tying extra pay to attendance encourages workers to come to work when they are sick.”
Kraft Heinz said it would never encourage employees to come to work if they were not well. The company also said it added social distancing throughout its factories and health questionnaires as part of factory employee safety routines. It is also to start conducting temperature checks this week.
The union also complained that employees had to use vacation days if they had to self-quarantine. The company has since lifted that requirement.
(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Nick Zieminski)