A petition with almost 124,000 signatures backing Sainsbury’s staff who would be worse off under contract changes has been handed in at the grocery giant’s London headquarters.
MPs Mohammad Yasin and Siobhain McDonagh were joined by protesters consisting of Sainsbury’s workers and supporters as they presented the petition to the retailer yesterday.
The Big 4 retailer is set to move staff on to new contracts in September, which features an increase in the hourly rate from £8 to £9.20 per hour and an investment of £110 million to give 121,000 store colleagues an average pay rise of 9.3 per cent.
While the new contracts mean Sainsbury’s would become the highest-paying grocer for shop floor staff on a per-hour basis, the grocer 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.
In addition, as part of a campaign spearheaded by McDonagh, more than 100 cross-party MPs wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May to complain about the staff contract changes.
May has since said she would intervene, and welcomed Sainsbury’s concessions following staff consultation, including a higher pay rate for workers in London and higher pay for drivers and staff on unsociable hours.
However, she implored all employers to “ensure that their reward packages are competitive, in order to retain and develop their staff”.
In response to the petition, Sainsbury’s insisted its changes to staff pay would make salaries fairer.
It also said it was committed to topping up the pay of the workers who say they would be worse off for at least 18 months, to ensure nobody earns less money than they do currently.
The supermarket is also set to review the contracts in 2020.
“At present we have colleagues working side by side in stores every day, carrying out the same role but being paid different amounts and that’s not fair,” a Sainsbury’s spokesperson said.
“Our plans will see over 120,000 colleagues receive a significant pay rise making Sainsbury’s the highest paying major retailer in the country.
“We appreciate that a small minority of colleagues will not benefit from these changes and that’s why we have protections in place to ensure that no-one will earn less than they do today.”
Sainsbury’s is not the first major retailer to have modified staff contracts following the introduction of the National Living Wage.
Waitrose, Morrisons, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and B&Q have all faced criticism over new contracts, with many cutting paid breaks as part of the changes.