Monday, June 24, 2024

Shoppers Drug Mart faces backlash for ‘volunteer’ job posting. Loblaw says it was an error | CBC News

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A Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy in downtown Toronto is facing backlash over a now-deleted job posting for a “volunteer” position in the store. 

“My first reaction was this has to be a joke,” said John Gunn, who has been a customer at the pharmacy, located at King and Peter streets, for more than a decade. 

But it was no prank. 

The job posting on LinkedIn listed duties such as assisting customers, restocking shelves, and organizing inventory — all for zero compensation.

“Your role as a volunteer is crucial in ensuring that our customers have a positive and seamless shopping experience,” read the listing, which was taken down from LinkedIn on Thursday. 

Shoppers Drug Mart’s parent company Loblaw told CBC Toronto in an email that the “job posting was an error,” adding that it is against company policy to have volunteers in its stores. 

‘Good intentions’ behind listing, says pharmacist

The listing was posted by Emil Harba, the pharmacist owner at the Shoppers Drug Mart located at King and Peter. 

A now-deleted job listing on LinkedIn advertised a ‘volunteer’ position at a Shoppers Drug Mart in downtown Toronto. (Submitted by John Gunn)

Harba declined a request for an interview, but told CBC Toronto he “was trying to help people seeking Canadian experience.” He said he often receives messages from people inquiring about volunteer opportunities in an effort to gain work experience. 

“The post wasn’t for any bad intentions, it was for good intentions,” Harba said. 

Harba said soon after he put up the listing, he was informed by the corporation that he could not take on volunteers in the store, and he immediately worked to take it down.

The CEO of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council says this incident “speaks volumes” to the importance many employers place on Canadian work experience. 

Gillian Mason says more than half of newcomers surveyed by the council in 2022 identified lack of Canadian experience as a major barrier to employment. 

“However that barrier needs to be overcome by employers increasing their capacity to actually hire and retain and advance immigrants.”

Online backlash

Images of the job posting have been circulating online, with Shoppers Drug Mart fielding criticisms on X, formerly Twitter. 

Gunn, the long-time customer, said he saw the listing as a continuation of a trend where customers are being asked to do “more and more free labour for companies.” 

Close up photo of John Gunn.
Shoppers Drug Mart customer John Gunn says the volunteer job posting has prompted him to switch pharmacies. (Submitted by John Gunn)

“From bringing your own bags, to packing your bags, to using self checkout, and now having the nerve to ask customers to volunteer literally stacking the shelves. And I thought there had to be a line drawn somewhere.” 

Gunn says he’s drawing that line by switching to a different pharmacy.

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