Calls for Sainsbury’s CEO to be grilled by MPs as staff contract row escalates

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Sainsbury's

Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe could be called in front of a parliamentary committee to discuss the retailer’s controversial plans to make changes in its workers’ contracts.

Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh has announced she is writing to Rachel Reeves, chairwoman of the Business Committee, to demand Coupe explains the supermarket’s motives for its overhaul of staff pay.

It’s the latest development in the Sainsbury’s staff pay row after the retailer was accused of “holding a gun to workers’ heads” over changes it would make to employee contracts in September.

Although Sainsbury’s plans to increase its workers’ hourly rate from £8 to £9.20 per hour, it will also be putting an end to benefits such as paid breaks and premium pay on Sundays.

The grocery giant wrote to MPs to defend its proposals and has modified some of its proposals in response to criticism already levied by MPs, but McDonagh said the plans would still leave around 9000 staff worse off.

Now the Labour MP is calling for Coupe to appear before a parliamentary committee to discuss the “life-changing implications” of the supermarket’s proposals.

In a letter, McDonagh said: “I have met with senior Sainsbury’s staff on two recent occasions to challenge these proposals, but, as many of these staff live outside of my constituency, I wanted to ensure their plight was raised directly with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

“Considering the life-changing implications that these proposals would have on 9000 Sainsbury’s employees, I ask that you consider a formal summons for Sainsbury’s chief executive, Mike Coupe, to appear before the Committee to explain how he can justify slashing the pay of 9000 of his most longstanding and loyal staff,” she added.

Unite, the union representing shop staff, accused the supermarket of “breaking its promises” because it would not allow employees to sign up to the new pay structure voluntarily.

In a statement, Sainsbury’s said: “We’d be happy to explain our plans to MPs. We are investing well over £100 million in our store colleagues who will receive an average 9.3 per cent pay increase this year.

“This will make Sainsbury’s the highest paying retailer in the country.

“We appreciate that a minority of colleagues do not stand to benefit from these plans. For this reason our proposals have, from the very outset, included top-up payments for an 18-month period to ensure that nobody will earn less than they do today.

“This is guaranteed until March 2020 and we will review our hourly rate of pay again at that point.”

The row comes while Coupe is already under pressure over Sainsbury’s £12 billion merger with Asda, which is currently being examined by the Competition and Markets Authority.

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