Coronavirus: Foodstuffs announces lockdown bonus, payments for vulnerable workers

Foodstuffs has announced a special bonus for essential employees, as well as payments for vulnerable workers to stay home during the four-week lockdown.

The supermarket co-operative giant, which controls the PAK'nSAVE, New World and Four Square brands, is one of the few businesses allowed to stay open during the level 4 alert.

But there has been concern from workers - especially those who are elderly or have health conditions - that remaining at their jobs puts them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

On Sunday, Foodstuffs said all waged front-line, distribution and transport employees nationwide will receive a 10 percent allowance during the four-week period. Medically-certified vulnerable employees unable to work will still be paid whilst they self-isolate at home.

"While some stores might not have got the position around paying their staff right as this has changed, it is the promise of all of the co-operatives members they will all have it right moving forward," Foodstuffs said in a statement.

Foodstuffs North Island CEO Chris Quin said in order to remain open for New Zealanders throughout the lockdown, they need key employees on the front-line and throughout the supply chain.

"We've been totally focused on keeping shelves full and ensuring our customers and teams are safe," he said in a statement.

"Now that we have a better handle on these things, it's time to clear up how we're supporting our committed and essential team members."

Foodstuffs also responded to complaints over higher prices and the lack of promotions for some items, saying it's due to "pressure on supply and reduced availability".

"The outlook is challenging. Suppliers have been under intense pressure for weeks now. Globally, countries are in lockdown and borders are shut which means products New Zealand may have had a ready supply of simply might not be available in the short term," it said.

"This isn't a concern for New Zealand as we have plenty of products grown and produced here, but we have to remember we are coming out of a long hot summer, one which put a large part of New Zealand into drought," Quin added.

"We are committed to doing our level best to keep prices low, but the reality exists that if you buy a cauliflower in March you are buying it out of season, on the back of a drought - it will not be cheap. Broccoli on the other hand, is a great buy at the moment."