Sobeys Fonthill. WARREN MASON

Says franchisee and Pelham Town Councillor Ron Kore’s symptoms were of widespread concern among staff

A fourth employee of Fonthill Sobeys has spoken to the Voice about franchisee and Pelham Town Councillor Ron Kore’s continued presence at the store over a period of weeks in March and April, when he was exhibiting symptoms of respiratory tract illness. Kore later tested positive for COVID-19.

While the employee, like others who have come forward requested that his name be withheld for fear of reprisal, said that he did not personally see Kore exhibit symptoms, he said that he heard other employees speak of having witnessed them.

“I did hear of many, many other employees complaining about how he had them, and complaining about how he was still coming in.”

Three other Sobeys employees have told the Voice that they witnessed Kore’s symptoms. Kore can be seen and heard with symptoms in the video recording made of council’s March 23 meeting at Town Hall.

The employee said that he had viewed parts of the video.

“It just proves that he had symptoms while attending work.”

In a statement released to several media outlets on Sunday, April 26, Kore asserted that he had self-monitored daily for symptoms.

“I would never take a risk with my health, the health of my wife, employees or colleagues at Town Hall,” the statement read. Kore said then that he would not be speaking further on the matter. Neither he nor Sobeys’ corporate communications department acknowledged a request for comment on this story.

The employee told the Voice that he heard store managers complain of Kore’s continued presence with symptoms, and that he heard that employees had brought their concerns to Kore, even despite the risk.

“I’m not around him as much as the managers. The floor staff I think could see it, but they wouldn’t say anything about it because he’s our boss. Even the managers—they would be afraid of that too,” he said.

Kore’s purported response to raised concerns, the employee said, was, “just that he’s fine, that it was just a cough.”

The employee said that given his coworkers’ accounts of Kore’s symptoms, they were particularly alarmed to see Kore fail to follow physical distancing guidelines in place since at least mid-March.

“With those symptoms, he was not social distancing at all, towards customers or employees. He didn’t do enough. He didn’t do what he was supposed to do at all. He would be a foot away from customers and employees,” the employee said, adding that he never saw Kore wearing a mask.

Two Sobeys customers wrote signed letters to the editor, published in last week’s Voice, alleging being subject to or seeing Kore’s symptoms.

The employee said that he was not surprised to read of other employees’ accounts of Kore’s illness.

“That was accurate,” he said, explaining that all the Sobeys employees he has spoken to are frustrated with Kore’s conduct. He said that no explanation has been given for Kore’s actions, aside from his April 26 statement, which he said was inadequate.

“It was terrible to see,” said the employee. “There was no apology. All he had to do was stay home, and he didn’t even apologize for not doing that.”

There was no apology. All he had to do was stay home, and he didn’t even apologize for not doing that.

The employee said that to his knowledge there has been no contact between Kore and general staff since the story broke.

“No one knows what Ron is thinking. I think he’s just trying to get past it. Everyone I have talked to is very frustrated with him. I haven’t heard anyone be supportive of him.”

The employee said that prior to pandemic, staff’s relationship with Kore was good.

“Some people didn’t like him, but overall he was well-liked,” he said, specifying that employees’ concerns about Kore’s conduct are not a product of general disgruntlement.

“He definitely made a big mistake, and the employees are trying to speak up because he should face consequences, in my opinion. Based off of what the other employees saw, everyone is frustrated with him. He definitely deserves [the attention for this].”

The employee said that should Kore return to his post, his conduct regarding COVID-19 would remain a sore point.

“It would be a huge problem. No one would trust him. People would look at him differently.”

Their concern is primarily that Kore continued to work while exhibiting symptoms, but also that he has refused to acknowledge wrongdoing.

“I’m surprised that he hasn’t apologized,” he said.

While some relatives questioned the employee’s decision to continue to work at the start of the pandemic, given that he was around so many customers and therefore at an increased potential for exposure to the virus, he told them that it was his duty to remain on the front lines to provide what was clearly an essential service.

The employee wants to stay employed, and intends to continue working at the store.

 

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