Sainsbury’s has been accused of “holding a gun to workers’ heads” as MPs and unions stepped up their criticism of the retailer after it approved its staff pay changes yesterday.
The Big 4 grocer has been accused by more than 100 cross-party MPs of using an increase in its basic pay as a “smokescreen” to cover up the decision to end benefits such as paid breaks and premium pay on Sundays.
Yesterday, Sainsbury’s confirmed plans to introduce changes to how colleagues are rewarded in September this year, after a consultation process came to an end.
The overhaul features an increase in the hourly rate from £8 to £9.20 per hour and top-up payments will be given to those negatively affected for 18 months.
The supermarket will review pay again in March 2020, but in the meantime colleague bonuses and paid breaks would no longer be granted.
Sainsbury’s said it forms part of a £110 million investment to give 121,000 store colleagues an average pay rise of 9.3 per cent.
The grocery giant wrote to MPs to defend its proposals, but Siobhain McDonagh MP believes the plans will still leave 9000 staff worse off.
“How can a company that made pre-tax profit of £589 million last year, with a chief executive that receives £930,000 before bonuses, think it is right to force a pay cut on thousands of their most longstanding and loyal members of staff?” she said.
Unite, the union representing shop staff, accused Sainsbury’s of “breaking its promises” because it would not allow employees to sign up to the new pay structure voluntarily.
Unite is seeking legal advice, alleging that the supermarket failed to consult staff meaningfully.
“Bosses have cut short the consultation extension over the plans which will leave thousands out of pocket while still holding a gun to workers’ heads with the threat of ‘sign up to the new contract or be out of a job’,”Unite officer Joe Clarke said.
“It’s not right and it’s not British to ask people to work well for less.
“We have very real concerns that the consultation process over the pay offer and changes to contracts has been nothing more than a PR exercise with the outcome predetermined in advance of the recent plans to merge with Asda.”
Sainsbury’s – which is attempting a £12 billion merger with Asda – has conceded that while over 93 per cent of store colleagues would be better off from the overhaul, a minority would not benefit.
Despite this, it said its pay increase makes it the highest-paying retailer in the UK.
“The changes we are introducing from September will make pay and contracts fair and consistent for all of our colleagues, in every store, regardless of age or length of service,” Sainsbury’s retail and operations director Simon Roberts said.
A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said there is “no legal merit” to Unite’s claim.
“We are disappointed with this reaction from Unite as they have had a seat at the table throughout the consultation process,” she said.
“We ran the consultation period until its natural conclusion as there were no counter proposals on the table that we had not already considered and responded to.
“We informed Unite yesterday that we had no grounds to continue consultation. We have conducted meaningful consultation with colleagues and have invested a further £10 million on top of the original £100 million to make changes in response to their feedback.
“This consultation relates to Sainsbury’s stores only and has nothing to do with the proposed merger with Asda.”