Theresa May urges retailers to lift pay standards

Sainsbury's pay

Prime Minister Theresa May has urged retailers to provide competitive wages and bonus schemes for staff amid controversy over changes to workers’ contracts at Sainsbury’s.

The Big 4 retailer is set to move staff on to new contracts in September.

While the new contracts mean Sainsbury’s would become the highest-paying grocer for shopfloor 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.

As part of a campaign spearheaded by Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh, more than 100 cross-party MPs wrote to the PM to complain about Sainsbury’s staff contract changes.

According to the Press Association, May responded by saying she would not intervene, arguing that the government should not “dictate how managers run businesses”.

However, she wrote: “The government believes that it is essential for employers to ensure that their reward packages are competitive, in order to retain and develop their staff.

“This includes the payment of wages above the statutory minima and the provision of additional benefits where this is affordable.”

May added that she 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.

McDonagh is now urging MPs to help her deliver an online petition to Sainsbury’s London headquarters on June 26.

Several large retailers have modified staff contracts in a bid to save money 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.

“We’re pleased the Prime Minister references in her letter that all workers should take home a fair wage,” a Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said.

“This is the driving force behind our plans, which will result in one fair and consistent contract for all Sainsbury’s store colleagues.

“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.”

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