Coronavirus: Whole Foods chief asks healthy workers to 'donate' holiday pay to sick colleagues

Employees express anger at reproted move by subsidiary of Amazon, world's most valuable company

Tom Embury-Dennis
Saturday 14 March 2020 13:41 GMT
Trump starts national emergency announcement by mispronouncing 'coronavirus'

The chief of Whole Foods has reportedly asked US shop workers to “donate” their holiday pay to colleagues who fall ill to coronavirus.

On Wednesday, CEO John Mackey sent an email to employees with a list of options for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Vice.

Among his six suggestions was for US workers to contribute their paid time off (PTO) to colleagues facing hospital treatment or family deaths.

“Team Members who have a medical emergency or death in their immediate family can receive donated PTO hours, not only from Team Members in their own location, but also from Team Members across the country,” Mr Mackey wrote in an email, which was obtained by the news organisation.

Mr Mackey said in the email any employee who tests positive for the virus would be offered two weeks paid time off, as well as unlimited unpaid time off for the remainder of March.

The suggestion to donate to colleagues angered employees of the company, which is a subsidiary of Amazon, the world's most valuable company.

“Considering [Whole Foods] is a billion-dollar company, I think it is selfish asking the retail workers to figure it out within themselves,” a Whole Foods cashier told Vice.

“The response from [Whole Foods and Amazon] has been quite poor, being a front end cashier I feel like we are the most exposed to the situation.”

An Amazon spokesperson told The Independent: “This is a longstanding Whole Foods Market programme from prior to the acquisition.

"Amazon is matching all funds to the Whole Foods Fund since the acquisition to support the team needs during this unprecedented event, and all Whole Foods team members have access to the two-weeks paid time off related to coronavirus that was announced for all Amazon employees.”

The US on Friday intensified its response to the pandemic when Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the growing outbreak of Covid-19, which has killed thousands of people globally.

The first human trials of a vaccine have been announced by scientists.

The Independent has contacted Whole Foods for comment.

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