TORONTO -- Two of Canada’s largest food retailers have announced a pay increase for staff working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Loblaw Companies Ltd, which includes Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies and Real Canadian Superstores, announced the raise Saturday for its workers’ “outstanding efforts to keep stores open.”

“We have made the decision to temporarily increase compensation for our store and distribution centre colleagues by approximately 15 per cent retroactive to March 8,” Galen Weston, executive chairman of Loblaw Companies, said in a company announcement.

“Unlike so many businesses across the country right now, our supermarkets and pharmacies are performing well.”

Grocery chain Metro is also boosting its employee salaries, offering an additional $2 per hour to workers in stores and distribution centres, retroactive from March 8 until May 2.

“Our colleagues in stores and in distribution centres have been working very hard for many days now, doing a great job to support our customers as we face an unprecedented crisis,” read a statement from Metro issued Saturday.

“They work in a particularly difficult situation and have been working very long hours to serve our customers.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents tens of thousands of staff in retail and pharmacy, welcomed the pay increase and said Loblaw Companies has also made employee and customer safety efforts, including the installation of plexiglass dividers at checkouts and pharmacy counters and limiting the number of customers in the store.

“This premium is well deserved for these current frontline employees. It’s an important recognition for the essential work of our grocery and pharmacy workers during this crisis,” said UFCW Local 175 president Shawn Haggerty.

“I call on all employers to follow this example and recognize their employees with a pay premium and a focus on keeping them safe.”

The union also urged employers to “ensure employment and pay security for those unable to work.”

Metro says it will provide access to its Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) to all stores, distribution centre and office employees. The service, which will be available until May 2, provides confidential support and advice.

“If you are facing difficulties at work, at home, managing your finances, etc. In a period of stress and uncertainty, this service can help you,” read the statement.​

With files from Nicole Bogart