Teresa Williams, left, and Betty Hewitt with cartloads of food to check through the till at the Chemainus 49th Parallel Grocery store. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Temporary jobs added at 49th Parallel to handle the extra workload created by COVID-19

Social atmosphere that goes with shopping shouldn’t be continuing

The surge in business from the COVID-19 pandemic has required 49th Parallel Grocery Stores in Chemainus, Ladysmith, Cedar and Duncan to hire more staff.

“We have already hired a number of people,” said 49th Parallel president Peter Richmond. “The situation changes daily.”

Temporary employees have joined dedicated staff to meet the needs in all four communities. Richmond couldn’t say how many more people might be needed as there’s no end in sight to the lifting of restrictions from the pandemic.

“Stocking, deliveries are the ones for people to jump into without a lot of training,” he indicated.

Anyone still interested in a potential position can send a resume to hr@the49th.ca and indicate which of the four stores would be your preference.

Wages over and above the normal rates are being provided.

“We were one of the first ones that did it,” Richmond pointed out.

It started out as 50 cents per hour and, after other grocery store chains elevated wages, eventually got bumped up to $2 per hour.

Meanwhile, Richmond’s top priority is maintaining safe shopping for customers during this crisis. At the same time, other factors have emerged that he can’t emphasize enough.

“It can’t be viewed as a social outing anymore,” he said.

“Simple fact of the matter is this is not a gathering place anymore. Get your groceries, get in, get out.”

Many people have been coming in with their entire families, especially with kids being out of school, but that can’t continue so stores aren’t crowded and safety isn’t compromised.

“It’s unfortunate it can’t be that anymore,” said Richmond of the social atmosphere that often goes with grocery shopping. “People are feeling the pinch – not much to do anymore. It’s different times.”

There’s still come conflicting information making it difficult for grocery stores to implement policies, the reusable bag issue being one of the most prominent.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has ordered discontinuing the bringing in of reusable bags, but the B.C. Centre for Disease Control had said it was OK. The 49th Parallel stores are issuing plastic bags.

The high demand from online grocery delivery orders has been one of the most astounding developments of this crisis to Richmond.

“If it continues to grow, it’s going to be hard to keep up,” he conceded.

But employees continue to go above and beyond the call of duty to fill the orders on time.

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