Former Co-op director Sam Walker tells tribunal she was sacked over equal pay

Former Co-operative Group executive Sam Walker has alleged she was sacked from the business after she raised concerns over equal pay, according to a report by the Guardian.

Walker was appointed chief human resources officer in February 2014, and first raised concerns about equal pay in 2015 after comparing her salary to other male executives who sat alongside her on the board. She was sacked the next year.

Giving evidence at an employment tribunal in Manchester yesterday, Walker described how the Co-op had been in crisis mode during her time on the board.

Her witness statement, as reported by the Guardian, said that during 2013 and 2014 large salaries were given to board members in an effort to stop them leaving.

Walker said that in 2014 significant increases were agreed for the then general counsel, Alistair Asher, and the then chief external affairs officer Nick Folland who were paid £550,000.

Meanwhile Walker and the then chief strategy planning officer Paula Kerrigan were offered £400,000 for what Walked said was “ostensibly because we were newly promoted to our roles”.

Walkers lawyer’s argued that an independent assessment of executive roles by the Hay Group in January 2015 rated her higher than Asher and Folland, with Kerrigan’s role on a par with Asher’s and higher than Folland’s.

Walker told the tribunal that equal pay concerns were raised three times with Co-op’s then chief executive Richard Pennycook, between November 2015 and January 2016.

During the ensuing negotiations, Walker’s daughter, who is severely disabled, sustained a brain injury and Walker was signed off sick in March 2016.

After an evaluation, Walker was diagnosed with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, and she is now on medication. She was then told that her employment at the Co-op had been terminated at the start of April 2016.

“The only reason I could think I was being treated in this way was because I had dared to raise the issue of equal pay,” Walker told the tribunal.

Yesterday, Walker argued in her statement that the case was not about money, but “right and wrong”.

She added: “I cannot leave that career, which I now accept is damaged beyond repair by simply making this claim, without trying to put something right.”

A Co-op spokesman speaking to the Guardian said: “We do not accept that Sam Walker was discriminated against or treated detrimentally, and intend to fully and robustly defend the various claims brought by Sam.”

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