Essential businesses offer pay, protection to meet COVID-19 demand

The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be a crisis with extremes. On one side, there is skyrocketing unemployment from the temporary closure of thousands of businesses and the cancellation of events designed to reduce the spread of the contagious and sometimes-fatal disease. On the other, essential businesses are scrambling to quickly ramp up their workforce to take care of the critical needs of the community.

Retailers from Amazon to brick-and-mortar stores across Michigan — including Meijer, Walmart, Costco, Aldi, Walgreens, Sam’s Club, Gordon Food Service, and SpartanNash — are among the companies on hiring sprees. 
There is a growing demand for delivery drivers.

These jobs are crucial to providing essential services to the community, said Jane Kreha, spokeswoman for West Michigan Works! (WMW!).

The workforce agency is partnering with employers on their recruitment efforts so companies can maintain their operations. WMW! is listing the full- and part-time, permanent and seasonal jobs in its Weekly Hot Jobs List, where openings can be sorted by county, industry, and employer. In general, most jobs are in warehouse distribution, grocery stores, food processing, and construction. 

Offering bonuses

In many cases, employers are offering temporary pay bonuses through April and investing in safety precautions to protect employees from exposure to the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

SpartanNash, which owns and operates D&W and Family Fare supermarkets in Ottawa County, recently announced a bonus of $2 extra an hour for retail and distribution workers. That’s in addition to a $25 weekly bonus that began March 1 and runs through April 25. Employees are also eligible for an associate discount of 20% off at company-owned retail stores during the same timeframe, as well as referral bonuses to assist in hiring additional workers, who can apply at careers.spartannash.com.

"At SpartanNash, our greatest asset is our family of associates, and that has never been more clear than in the past few weeks," Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Yvonne Trupiano said in a statement. "Both the frontline bonus pay and the associate appreciation bonus are our way of saying 'thank you' for all the work that has been done to date — and all the work that is yet to be done."

Investing in safety

Like other retailers, SpartanNash is making a significant investment in personal protective equipment and increased safety and sanitation measures, such as sneeze guards, to protect the health of their workforce and customers. 
Several companies are hiring warehouse workers.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the company said, SpartanNash has maintained two top priorities: the well-being and safety of its family of associates, customers and communities; and supporting health officials and government leaders to contain the virus. 

All employees can wear gloves and facemasks. The company has purchased facemasks and gloves for all frontline associates working in its distribution centers, retail stores, and facilities and expects to have the PPE available by mid-April.

Employees are being asked to take their temperature at home before coming to work. There are also onsite health status screenings for all associates upon arrival. Sick leave benefits have been expanded to up to 80 hours of paid leave, and fees for telemedicine visits and COVID-19 testing have been waived since the onset of the pandemic.

The company is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and protocols for safety, prevention, and cleaning, including sanitizing high-touch surfaces, such as food service counters, checkout lanes, and conveyor belts. 

Herbruck’s is hiring

Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Ionia County also has numerous openings, from working in the barns with birds to processing, where eggs are washed, inspected and packed. 
Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Ionia County is hiring for several positions.
In November, the family-owned egg producer opened a health care clinic so employees and their covered dependents could receive free medical care without having to wait for an appointment. The clinic has played a critical role in ensuring employees can be checked immediately for health issues, including COVID-19 symptoms.

“We already have pretty stringent biosecurity rules anyway, so our normal, everyday practices of hygiene follow the same guidelines recommended by the CDC,” said Human Resources Director Jill MacDougall. “We’ve always worn personal protective equipment, and we're extending that to N95 masks in the processing facilities.”

Social distancing practices have been put in place in the break room with staggered breaks so smaller groups take breaks at the same time, and tables have been reconfigured so employees maintain 6 feet from each other. 

“We also distributed masks to each individual employee that they can use outside of work, for when they're going out into the public sector for grocery shopping,” MacDougall said. 

This article is part of The Lakeshore, a new featured section of Rapid Growth focused on West Michigan's Lakeshore region. Over the coming months, Rapid Growth will be expanding to cover the complex challenges in this community by focusing on the organizations, projects, programs and individuals working to improve conditions and solve problems for their region. As the coverage continues, look for The Lakeshore publication, coming in 2020.
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