Says Sobeys corporate response to date also inadequate
One of the Fonthill Sobeys employees who first spoke to the Voice about Councillor and store franchisee Ron Kore’s presence at work with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 again spoke out on Sunday. The employee, who asked that their name be withheld for fear of losing their job, said that they were upset with Kore’s statement to the media, made some four days after news broke that he continued to work while displaying symptoms of respiratory illness.
“I found it to be a joke. He should be embarrassed,” they said, adding that multiple employees told Kore that he was ill.
“People told him: ‘You should be going home. You’re sick, you’re sick.’ And he would just say, ‘Oh I’m fine, I’m fine, it’s a cold. He was told numerous times by numerous employees that he should not be working.”
Kore had not responded by press time when asked to confirm this account.
The employee said that Kore had sent other workers home for being sick.
“It just proves he feels nothing applies to him. He’s above everything. He can send an employee home because they’re sick. Why does he stay?”
The statement Kore released on Sunday asserted that he had regularly performed COVID-19 self-assessment tests.
“If you’re sick enough that you need to do the self-assessment while the pandemic was on, why would you think for a minute that you’re okay to go to work,” the employee said.
If you’re sick enough that you need to do the self-assessment while the pandemic was on, why would you think for a minute that you’re okay to go to work
Absent from Kore’s statement was an acknowledgement that he might have made mistakes.
“There was not even an apology,” they said, adding that the statement read as if it had been written by a lawyer.
“He could have at least held himself accountable for coming into work sick. He took no ownership of the potential risk he could have put his employees and customers at. And not to get any mention in his statement today, and no apology or concern to his employees or his customers? It’s insulting.”
“The most crucial time, before March 23, there was no mention. There’s no way he could dig himself out of that,” they said.
While Sobeys has told the media that the company will be carrying out an internal investigation into Kore’s conduct, the employee said they have yet to be contacted.
“I feel Sobeys is just doing damage control, telling people what they think they want to hear.”
Sobeys communications officer Jacqueline Weatherbee strongly pushed back on this assertion on Monday, saying that the company had deployed an internal team that manages all complaints that come to corporate notice, whether from customers, suppliers, or employees.
“We are taking this very seriously, listening to all the concerns that have come in,” said Weatherbee.
A Sobeys employee told the Voice on Monday that staff interviews had indeed begun at the store. Employees who wish to make confidential statements without identifying themselves may do so, Weatherbee said, through the company’s “Ethics Line,” at 888-427-2530, answered 24 hours a day, or online at www.clearviewconnects.com
Weatherbee said she was unable to predict how long the investigation would take. She said Sobeys had no comment on Kore’s Sunday statement.
The employee said that their sentiments were widely shared among their co-workers, and that assuming Kore returns to the job, his previous conduct would stain the relationship with his staff.
“He didn’t do his job to make us feel safe during this pandemic,” they said. “If they let him come back, how would we be assured that he would make us feel safe? We certainly couldn’t count on him to do the right thing.”
The employee said that they, and others, were fearful of retribution for speaking up.
“It gives me stress. I need my job.”
The employee acknowledged that some social media commenters had criticized them and others for speaking up as unnamed sources, citing Kore’s prominence and charitable work.
“[But] I see from the outside looking in, ‘Oh yeah, he’s great to the community, he does a lot, he was Citizen of the Year,’” they said.
“Absolutely someone could say that. But were they in there, working every day, while he was coughing and hacking? I could have brought it home to my family. They’re entitled to their opinion, but until it’s their family or friends who are affected personally, they have no idea.”
Kore’s statement included an assertion that he would be making no further comment on the issue, and the employee said that it seemed as though he was trying to “just move on.”
“I think that his poor judgement and bad decisions are going to follow him for a long while to come. It’s easy for him to say, ‘Let’s just forget it. Let’s sweep it under the rug. This is my statement. I did no wrong.’ Well, it’s not that easy.”