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Save-On-Foods Owner Says Business Has ‘Never Been Better’ Three Months After Cutting Workers’ Pay

BC billionaire Jim Pattison boasts that the pandemic has brought him ‘opportunities like never before’

Only three months after cutting hazard pay for frontline grocery store workers, Save-On-Food’s billionaire owner is boasting that his financial situation has never looked more promising.

British Columbia billionaire Jim Pattison, CEO and Chair of the Jim Pattison Group as well as the sixth richest man in Canada, shared the good news about his business prospects with Bloomberg last week.

“We’re looking today at opportunities like we’ve never had before,” Pattison told the business news outlet. “We’ve never been in better shape to invest.”

Pattison, who runs Canada’s biggest billboard company and has been a top donor to the provincial BC Liberals, said a number of “significant” private companies have recently approached him in search of capital. “There’s nothing like a global crisis to drive deals to those with cash,” Bloomberg noted.

Although he boasts that his company has “never been in better shape,” some of Pattison’s workers have had a slightly different experience of the pandemic.

According to UFCW 1518, the union local that represents Save-On-Foods workers, the extra $2 per hour hazard pay brought Save-On-Food’s lowest-paid grocery workers closer to a living wage. In Vancouver, that amounts to $19.50 per hour.

One Save-On-Foods worker, quoted in a UFCW release earlier this summer, said the grocery chain’s decision to claw back $2 per hour in hazard pay in the middle of a pandemic has impacted their ability to afford basic costs-of-living.

“I know a few hundred dollars doesn’t seem like a lot to salaried decision makers,” the Save-On-Foods worker said, “but to me, that few hundred dollars a month represents rent, encouragement and hope that I can save up money for a future.”

Despite the fact that he owns the grocery store chain, Pattison denied having any responsibility for the cut to Save-On-Foods workers’ pay.

“I’m not involved,” Pattison told PressProgress. “We own and finance the company, but we don’t run them.”

The Pattison Group did not respond to questions from PressProgress about its owner and namesake’s latest remarks about his company’s investment opportunities.

But data suggests Pattinson isn’t alone in gaining from the pandemic.  According to the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives, Canada’s 20 richest people became $37 billion richer from March to September 2020.

The CCPA ranked Pattison the pandemic’s 8th biggest winner, noting his personal wealth rose $1.7 billion “during six of the most economically catastrophic months in Canadian history.”

 

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