Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh has suggested a boycott of Marks & Spencer during this festive season over allegations the retailer has cut back on overtime pay for its staff.
The member for Mitcham and Morden criticised the department store’s practices during a debate in the House of Commons yesterday, where she said the high street chain had offset the cost of the new £7.20 per hour National Living Wage by cutting double time pay and the money staff receive for working unsociable hours.
She also criticised M&S chief executive Steve Rowe.
“The chief executive of Marks & Spencer is still refusing to meet with MPs to discuss these changes and he has not accepted that he should have a pay cut in solidarity with his shop floor staff,” she said.
“I hope members will bear all of this in mind when they are doing their Christmas shopping at M&S next month.”
McDonagh told the Commons that 11,000 M&S staff would be adversely affected as a result of the changes.
She said 2700 members of those staff members will lose at least £1000 while 700 employees will lose at least £2000.
“A significant proportion will lose up to £6000 a year,” she added.
“The human cost of these actions is huge.”
McDonagh also said the M&S board would meet today to finalise these changes, with notices being sent to staff just before Christmas.
M&S was not the only retailer in the firing line – she also accused B&Q of similar practices, saying double-time pay and seasonal bonuses were set to be cut, costing some staff thousands of pounds a year.
“What is so shocking is the ease and speed with which these companies have legally cut staff pay,” she said.
“Both companies launched 90-day consultations, which is the statutory minimum. Neither company recognises a trade union. Both companies targeted those workers on older contracts.
“And both companies conducted consultations which ended with these pay cuts pushing through, regardless of their employees’ heartache and the reputation damage that they have faced.”
McDonagh went on to warn that other high street names, such as John Lewis, Caffe Nero and Zizzi, could follow M&S and she urged the government to tackle these “unscrupulous” pay policies.
Business Minister Margot James said the government’s National Living Wage was now the “highest minimum wage that the country has ever seen, not just in cash terms but also when taking account of inflation”.
She said businesses must be able to cope with any required increases in wages.
“Higher pay does need to be affordable for employers because if employers can’t afford to pay it then they won’t hire workers and, worse still, might even lay workers off,” she said.
She added that while the government sets the minimum wage, it was entirely up to the employers “to decide how they manage those increases in their costs”.
However, she rejected the idea that employers are using loopholes to pay for the increase.
“The reason I don’t see these matters as loopholes is that there is no proof that there is a connection between the national living wage introduction of and some of the cases that we have heard about this afternoon,” she said.