Theresa May urged to intervene on Sainsbury’s staff pay controversy

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Sainsbury's staff contracts

Prime Minister Theresa May has been urged to intervene in a dispute between Sainsbury’s and its shop floor workers over the Big 4 retailer’s plans to overhaul employment contracts.

According to Press Association, a group of high profile, cross-party MPs has written to the PM, urging her to address the issue with chief executive Mike Coupe and force him to “ensure that no staff will face a pay cut”.

In March, Sainsbury’s announced plans to raise the basic pay of store employees from £8 to £9.20 per hour amid a £100 million investment scheme.

Despite this making it the highest-paying grocer for floor staff per hour, Sainsbury’s said it would also cut paid breaks, stop premium pay for Sundays and shorten night shift premium hours to 12am-5am.

The backlash that has ensued since are based on allegations that around 13,000 Sainsbury’s staff were to be made worse off, many of whom are long-standing employees.

Penned by Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh MP and backed by Labour’s David Lammy MP, Frank Field MP, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey, and Conservative Robert Halfon MP – the letter, as seen by Press Association, describes Sainsbury’s actions as “deplorable”.

The letter has now reportedly received the support of around 100 MPs.

“We are completely dismayed that a company of Sainsbury’s reputation would use an increase in basic pay as a smokescreen for a whole array of deplorable decisions that will hit hardest their most dedicated, loyal and long-term staff,” the letter reads.

“Under the proposed changes, all employees will lose their paid breaks, there will be widespread cuts to premium pay including a shortening of nightshift premium hours and a scrapping of Sunday premium pay, and shop floor staff will no longer receive bonuses.

“However, the scrapping of the bonus scheme will not affect the chief executive, Mike Coupe, or his fellow management team.”

Sainsbury’s retail and operations director Simon Roberts responded by saying the MPs’ letter did not reflect the majority of staff sentiments.

“We don’t believe that this letter accurately reflects how the vast majority of our colleagues are feeling,” he said.

“We have conducted meaningful consultation with around 100 colleague representatives and have made a number of changes to our original proposals based on their feedback.

“It is extremely disappointing that our plans to make Sainsbury’s colleagues the best-paid in retail are being deliberately misrepresented to such a degree and we would be happy to set the record straight.”

The letter comes after May last year backtracked on a promise to put company workers on boards.

In Prime Minister’s Questions last week, she was asked whether she saw the contract changes as an “insult”.

The PM responded saying she would look at the issue, but that “these are commercial decisions that are taken by the employer and by Sainsbury’s”.

Last week, Sainsbury’s made some changes on their plans to the staff pay proposals after a consultation process with employees.

Employees working in London outside zones one and two will now receive 25p an hour more, as will delivery drivers.

Most significantly, night shift workers will see their hourly rates rise from £1.55 an hour to £2.45 and hour, but the way they are paid for night shifts will still change.

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