Coronavirus: New supermarket workers share their stories

By Johanna Carr
BBC News Online

John JacksonImage source, John Jackson
Image caption,
John Jackson said he was proud of the part his family is playing during the pandemic

Supermarkets across the country have been taking on tens of thousands of extra staff members to help them cope during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the newly-appointed workers share the stories behind their unexpected new roles.

'They're saying I am doing great'

John Jackson, 66, spent three decades in the Royal Air Force before working as an aircraft engineer for commercial airlines for 20 years.

Last week, he started on the tills at his local Tesco.

Image source, John Jackson
Image caption,
John Jackson served in the Falklands and the Gulf War during his time in the RAF

Mr Jackson, from Tresillian, near Truro, in Cornwall, said it was not something he had ever imagined doing but he was enjoying the job. He was most recently working for Flybe, but lost his job when the airline collapsed in March.

Mr Jackson said there has been quite a lot to learn.

"Without working behind a till you don't realise how many different parts of it you need to know to make everything go smoothly. They're saying I am doing great so I am happy with that."

His wife Maria works for the NHS, and he said he was proud of the part his family was playing in the pandemic. He also praised the camaraderie of the store's staff.

"It does feel like a family," he said. "It is really encouraging the way they work, the professionalism. I can only praise them for what has been happening."

'I needed to do something worthwhile'

Image source, Dawn Butler
Image caption,
Dawn Butler had previously worked in a supermarket but "never" thought she would go back

Cake designer Dawn Butler, 42, from Cotgrave, Nottingham, has made cakes for the Queen, actor David Hasselhoff and fashion expert Gok Wan.

She is also an former police officer but when her force said they would not take rejoiners she wanted to "do something worthwhile". She is now picking up online orders at the Asda warehouse in Bulwell.

"I have gone from building a business over 10 years to it disappearing overnight," she said. "I have gone from an hourly rate of £75 an hour to £9 per hour. It is certainly not about the money."

Image source, Dawn Butler
Image caption,
Prince William with a floating cake Mrs Butler made to thank the Queen for opening the new East Anglian Air Ambulance base in 2016

Ms Butler started on 25 March, when she said there were about 100 new staff in the warehouse.

She said she loved the job and the other staff were "brilliant".

"I do feel like I am doing my bit," she added. "I keep thinking of those people that are sat at home waiting for that food to arrive."

'The hardest day's work I've done'

Image source, Rachael Pawley
Image caption,
Rachael Pawley decided to close her dog walking business Bob and Pals and is now working in Morrisons

Rachael Pawley, 32, from Leeds, decided to temporarily shut down her dog walking business, called Bob and Pals.

The former nurse has registered to return to the NHS but got a job at Morrisons to keep her going until she hears from her hospital trust.

She said she had seen the "best and worst of people" in the supermarket and it was "absolutely" the "hardest day's work" she had ever done.

"I was marshalling the self-scan checkouts and the way some people spoke to me was beyond rude," she said.

"There is no way I could do this full-time - it is hard work. This slogan you all keep seeing - proud to feed the nation? So they bloody should be.

"And I'm proud to stand alongside them until I can get back in my nurse's tunic."

How many have been hired?

Image source, PA Media

Supermarkets across the country have hired thousands of new workers in the last few weeks as demand surges amid the coronavirus crisis.

Tesco said in the 10 days up to 31 March, 35,000 new members of staff had joined the company.

Chief executive Dave Lewis said: "The response to our call for new recruits has been incredible, with over one million visitors to our careers website."

Meanwhile, Morrisons said it was creating 3,500 new jobs to expand its home delivery service and Asda has said it wants to recruit more than 5,000 temporary staff from people whose jobs have been affected by the virus.

'Thrown in at the deep end'

Image source, Francesca Dell
Image caption,
Francesca Dell has got a job in Sainsbury's to help her pay the bills

Actor Francesca Dell, 22, said she was grateful for her new job in Sainsbury's.

Miss Dell, who also worked as a teaching assistant, had landed a role in a film, which has now been delayed. "I have just started to get loads of credits to my name, make a showreel and get an agent," she said.

But when her work dried up, Miss Dell got a job in a Sainsbury's 40 minutes from her home in Earlsfield, London, to pay the bills.

"When I started, I got thrown into the deep end immediately because it is so busy and so hectic so I didn't have time to sit down and panic about if I would do anything wrong."

She said she was worried about her health but would not stop going to work because "I know it is needed".

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.