Tuesday, November 24

Pet adoption booming amid pandemic, but workers accuse retailers of abuse | Retail industry

How the coronavirus pandemic has caused Greater demand pet supplies and pet supplies, two largest pet retailers In the U.S., PetSmart and Petco say their companies have refused to award payments for dangerous living conditions during the pandemic, cut staff and increased the workload for remaining employees, while planning decisions to enrich their investors from Wall Street.

The demand for pet supplies has increased through the pandemic, as Americans working remotely and social distancing have contributed to a wave in pet adoptions in the United States.

In September 2020, Bloomberg reported the owners Petco, private equity firm CVC Capital Partners and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, are considering an initial public offering or sale in 2021, with the estimated value of the retail chain at $ 6 billion, including the debt.

The private equity firm that owns PetSmart and Chewy Announced plans in October 2020 to split the two companies three years after a merger and acquisition. Workers say the deal will leave PetSmart with more debt and divert $ 11 billion to Wall Street investors by transferring PetSmart’s stake in Chewy to themselves. Chewy saw his share price more than double during the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Retail worker TJ Daniels, who has worked at Petco in Dillon, Colorado, for about four years, saw his hours and workloads increase significantly when the pandemic hit, as several employees were suspended, took medical leave or had to take quarantined. All Petco Retail Stores remained open throughout the pandemic.

“The lack of employees made working really difficult and stressful, because you have to do the workload of the extra workers while dealing with the extra people in the store because they were all storing dog food and coming to buy animals,” he said. Daniels.

You had a scheduled raise of 50 cents an hour that was revoked and you recently received only a 30-cent-an-hour raise. “We do not receive any payment for dangerousness. They tried to give us little bonuses here and there, one of mine was $ 24. Managers got $ 200 and regular store clerks got $ 75. That doesn’t help at all, “he said.

Daniels lobbied for better security protections against coronavirus during the pandemic, for the store to limit hours and staff to one employee to monitor and enforce capacity, and for paid time off for quarantine. He said workers only get one week paid for quarantine, and the second week forces employees to use their accrued paid time off or they will be loaned paid time off that workers would have to return to the company.

He was one of several United for Respect workers who signed a letter to Petco owners in response to the announcement of a potential public offering or initial sale, asking Petco to provide workers with payment for dangerous living conditions, medical care and a voice on the company’s board of directors.

Kris Blotzer, who works as a Petco warehouse in Greenville, South Carolina, also signed the letter. He explained that during the pandemic, the workload increased significantly, while his salary remained at $ 9 an hour.

“I was making $ 9 an hour to kill myself,” Blotzer said. “I would pick up and pack 100 orders a day on my own and most days I couldn’t finish them.”

Phil Andrews, who has worked as a Petco dog groomer for 13 years in Miami, Florida, also detailed the harsh conditions.

“We don’t have the staff to keep up to date and enforce cleaning and mask wear,” Andrews said. “They are launching new ad campaigns, they want us to sell their pet insurance plans now, but they have never talked about the Danger Benefit. They ask us to do more and we are not strict on security. “

A Petco spokesperson said the company has provided extensive personal protective equipment to its 27,000 employees across the United States.

“As our business began to recover, we completed our earlier planned pay cut and leave period and returned to strategic hiring to account for continued growth in our business,” the spokesperson said in an email. “We also invested $ 13 million in additional compensation for our field teams, including five Covid recognition bonus cycles; we invested $ 7 million in additional paid time off related to Covid; and we established the Petco Partner Assistance fund with more than $ 2 million in seed funding from the company and its leaders. “

Petco and PetSmart would not provide their starting hourly wage for associates, but according to Payscale, the average salary for retail associates at Petco is $ 9.86 per hour Y $ 10.06 an hour at PetSmart.

PetSmart, possessed by private equity firm BC Partners, has struggled over the past years with billions of dollars in debt. During the pandemic, PetSmart initially rejected to shut down its dog grooming services in many areas of the US, even though the services are considered non-essential in some areas.

A PetSmart employee in San Antonio, Texas, for more than three years, Alex Ludwig, said cashiers at her store were laid off at the start of the pandemic, while all remaining employees except managers saw their hours cut. of work.

“Personally, my hours decreased from 10 to 20 hours per week,” Ludwig said. “It’s been insane, far worse than any Black Friday sale we’ve had and customers are not putting up with social distancing at all.”

Ludwig was one of dozens of current and former PetSmart workers who signed a letter to company property in July 2020 requesting payment for dangerous living conditions for workers, health care benefits, and appropriate personal protective equipment.

She resigned in September 2020 after months of management ignoring her complaints and concerns.

A PetSmart spokesperson told The Guardian that the company has invested millions of dollars to provide personal protective equipment to associates.

“We have paid more than $ 20 million in additional compensation to our front-line associates since the pandemic began. This includes special thank you bonuses, health care premium payments and other health care benefits, ”they said in an email. “We also made a $ 1 million contribution to the PetSmart Associate Assistance Foundation to support frontline workers facing personal or financial difficulties, and established a $ 1 million scholarship fund for associates of color in support of our commitment. with diversity and inclusion. “

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