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Sainsbury’s under new pressure to pay living wage for all workers | J Sainsbury

Written by Javed Iqbal

The Queen’s Bank, Coutts & Co and the Coal Pensions Board have joined a group of investors backing a resolution calling on Sainsbury’s to pay the independently set salary of all staff and contract staff.

The vote at Britain’s second-largest supermarket annual shareholders’ meeting on July 7 will be the first decision to oblige a UK board to pay the living wage.

ShareAction, the responsible investment group, said the decision would be a “litmus test for investors’ social obligations in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis”.

Leading urban investors, including HSBC, Legal & General Investment Management and Fidelity International, as well as the pension fund Nest and Brunel Pension Partnership are already part of the coalition behind the decision which comes as family budgets are pressured by rising inflation.

Sainsbury’s has raised the salaries of its 171,000 direct employees across more than 1,400 stores in the UK to the living wage, which is independently calculated for the Living Wage Foundation charity at least £ 9.90 an hour outside London or £ 11.05 in the capital. However, it has not made the same commitment to contractors. Outsourcing companies like Mitie provide essential services such as cleaning and security to the supermarket.

Leslie Gent, Head of Responsible Investment at Coutts & Co, said: “We recognize the positive progress that Sainsbury’s has made in matching the living wage of its direct employees. As a living wage employer, we believe this accreditation would set a standard for all UK supermarkets and would provide the security and transparency that helps attract a high quality workforce, today and in the future. “

More than half of the FTSE 100s are among the more than 10,000 accredited employers for living wages. However, there are none of the major supermarkets among them.

The government’s national wage, which sets legal minimum rates, pays £ 9.50 to those aged 23 and over before falling to £ 6.83 for those aged 18 and over, and £ 4.81 for apprentices.

Rachel Hargreaves, campaign manager at ShareAction said: “There is no excuse for a highly profitable company with multimillion-pound executive pay refusing to guarantee all its staff, including subcontractors, a basic standard of living.”

With energy and food costs rising, Britain’s lowest paid workers are under particular pressure.

The Department of Fiscal Policy Studies has reported that the poorest households faced inflation in the year to April at 10.9%, three percentage points higher than top incomes.

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However, the Office for National Statistics in the UK recently shared data showing that wages for retail workers have only risen by 3.7% this year to April.

Sainsbury’s chairman Martin Scicluna, a former chief accountant Deloitte, has written to all shareholders asking them to vote against the resolution. He argued that the company’s wage rates were already higher than many of its competitors’ and that “Accreditation as an employer for the living wage would mean that a third party – the Living Wage Foundation – would decide our colleague’s wage changes every year … We believe it is it is right for the company and our stakeholders to make independent decisions on salaries and benefits instead of having them determined by a separate external body. ”

Tesco chairman John Allan used a similar argument when asked about Britain’s largest supermarket chain, which accredited to the living wage at its annual shareholders’ meeting on 17 June. He said Tesco was trying to set wages through bargaining with unions, adding: “We are very concerned about committing to a living wage and leaving our wage structure to a third party decision,” he told shareholders at the meeting.

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Javed Iqbal

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