(EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated on May 29 to provide additional information)

MONTREAL -- A petition launched by labour rights activists calls for better working conditions and pay for staff at Dollarama stores because of the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 1, International Workers Day, organizers said the petition had garnered 25,000 signatures.

“What Canadians are saying today is give your workers dignity and respect,” said organizer Luca Palladino. “A living wage instead of doing the minimum.”

The petition calls for a two-dollar-per-hour pay increase and further improvements to protective measures.

“We've had workers and clients come to us and say 'Listen, my Dollarama doesn't have Plexiglass shields, it just has this thin plastic that is kind of like a dollar store solution to the problem,'” said Palladino. “That's not what we need. We need real solutions.”

After one employee expressed concerns to CTV News about protective measures in one store, CTV News visited the location and could see that only a thin film of plastic wrap had separated the cashier from clients. 

In a statement, Dollarama said the safety of its employees is the company’s top priority, and even if some of the measures in place make shopping take a little longer, it’s in the best interests of both staff and customers.

“Strict cleaning and sanitization protocols are rigorously executed in all areas of stores, with a focus on frequently touched surfaces.” the statement explained

The company says as of May 1, 5,100 Canadian-made Plexiglass safety shields have been installed at checkout counters, with only 200 remaining to be completed.

Dollarama says by May 5, the Plexiglass shields have been installed in 100 per cent of its stores.

In an online update on April 16, petition organizers acknowledged that Dollarama was making changes. The update reads. “...they are providing gloves and masks free of charge to its employees and are now shipping Plexiglass shields to their 6,000 checkout counters."

Here are some other safety measures Dollarama says it has taken:

  • Gloves and Canadian-made masks are available to all employees who wish to wear them
  • Canadian-made plastic face shields are being distributed to all employees and will be available for sale
  • Limiting the number of customers in a store at one time. The limit is set at less than 20% of a store’s normal capacity to promote physical distancing

In a statement, Dollarama says the equivalent sanitization protocols and safety measures are in place at the company’s distribution centre and warehouses.

The petition also calls on Dollarama to offer employees a two-dollar-per-hour pay increase. The company says it is paying a 10-per-cent premium per hour on top of any overtime hours worked.