By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4)– King Soopers and City Market are part of a national chain. The parent company, Kroger, has mandated that unvaccinated salaried employees are to be charged $50 a month more for health insurance if they’re on the company plan. And will no longer be given two weeks of emergency COVID-19 leave with pay. Those measures are to take effect January 1, 2022.

(credit: CBS)

United Food and Commercial Workers union secretary/treasurer Kevin Schneider says the company may not be able to do that in Colorado.

“Employers are required to provide 80 hours of COVID relief pay to their workers who have to quarantine or test positive for COVID,” said Schneider.

He says that is due to an order put into effect previously by Gov. Jared Polis.

The King Soopers on 9th and Corona in Denver (credit: CBS)

As a carrot, the company has been offering $100 bonuses to employees who get vaccinated.

Schneider counters it could be higher since they have been through a lot dealing with difficult customers, “They have been spit on, swung at sworn at and that is unfortunate.”

He adds that the $2 an hour hazard pay his members received early on in the pandemic is gone.

Customers look at the policies through their own eyes.

(credit: CBS)

One man leaving a supermarket with groceries in his arms said, “We are still living in a pandemic right now, but I don’t think to take it out of somebody’s paycheck is the best move.”

Another shopper said, “Probably a lot of people aren’t going to like it you know, but they give incentives for a lot of things.”

Discussion of the new rules may come up at employees’ dinner tables, and the company-union bargaining table.

King Soopers issued this statement to CBS4: We have been navigating the COVID-19 pandemic for almost two years and, in line with our values, the safety of our associates and customers has remained our top priority. To accomplish this, we created and amended several workplace policies at the onset of the pandemic to support our associates during immense uncertainty. The administration of the vaccine to our associates has been an integral part of our efforts and continues to be a focus. As we prepare to navigate the next phase of the pandemic, we are modifying policies to encourage safe behaviors including vaccination, which we continue to incentivize with a $100 payment for all fully vaccinated associates.

To be more specific on the topics of:
• Monthly Health Insurance Surcharge
o This $50 monthly surcharge will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2022 and only apply to salaried associates who are unvaccinated and enrolled in a company healthcare plan. This does not apply to hourly associates enrolled in a company healthcare plan or those covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

COVID-19 Leave
o While COVID-19 leave will no longer be available to unvaccinated associates, we continue to offer a variety of forms of leave for associates who may contract the virus, including earned PTO and the ability to apply for unpaid leave. The special leave will remain available to fully vaccinated associates who may have breakthrough cases.
o In Colorado, all associates, regardless of vaccination status will remain eligible for an Emergency Leave of Absence (ELOA) which allows for up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave for employees who are unable to work for reasons related to a public health emergency.

Rick Sallinger