Investors call on Sainsbury’s to pay workers a ‘real living wage’ | National Living Wage
Major investors have launched a campaign calling on Sainsbury’s to help tackle the cost of living crisis by becoming the first supermarket group to pay all of its workers the “real living wage” of £9.90 an hour.
Legal & General Investment Management, Nest (National Employment Savings Trust), which is Britain’s largest workplace pension scheme, and several MPs have formed a coalition to push for change after reports that a increasing number of supermarket workers have to turning to food banks to feed themselves and their families.
The group of investors – whose institutional members manage £2.2bn of assets – will table a shareholder resolution on Monday calling on Sainsbury’s to accredit itself as a living wage employer. The resolution will be put to a vote at Sainsbury’s annual general meeting, scheduled for July 7. The group said it would write to all UK supermarkets urging them to take the same action.
Fixed by the Living Wage Foundation, the actual national living wage is currently £9.90, while in London it is £11.05. It is expected to rise in November and compare to the statutory minimum wage of £8.91, which will rise to £9.50 on April 1. Around 9,000 or more employers have taken up the voluntary pay measure, including half of the FTSE 100 and some top retailers such as Ikea and Lush, but no UK supermarkets have yet signed up.
Despite official recognition of their status as key workers during the pandemic, supermarket staff continue to be one of the largest groups of low-paid workers in Britain, according to investor campaign group ShareAction, which coordinates the resolution.
Sainsbury’s is the UK’s second largest food retailer. It operates more than 600 supermarkets and 800 convenience stores, and in January said it expected to report underlying profits of at least £720m for the financial year to March 2022, or £60m pounds more than he previously thought. Last year the retailer was criticized by some when it emerged that its chief executive, Simon Roberts, had received a salary package totaling more than £1.3m for 2020-21.
At the same time, many supermarket workers are struggling to keep their heads above water. The research carried out by the Organize the network found that one in three Sainsbury’s employees regularly worried about putting food and drink on the table.
Sainsbury’s pays more than some competitors: earlier this year it announced an increase in the basic hourly wage for all employees. It raised rates for directly employed staff from £9.50 to £10 an hour outside London and matched the living wage rate for central London employees. Asda, meanwhile, came under fire last month by the GMB union for forcing a pay rise below inflation, meaning his staff will earn £9.66 an hour from April, while Tesco’s current hourly rate is £9.55.
However, ShareAction said Sainsbury’s new rate of £10.50 for workers outside London was “significantly lower” than the actual living wage of £11.05 for the region.
On top of that, he added, Sainsbury’s had made no commitments to pay for third-party staff such as cleaners and security guards, nor any promise that wages would continue to rise in line with the cost of life in the years to come.
The shareholder resolution calls on the retailer to remove this uncertainty by becoming an accredited employer by July 2023. It would be the first resolution calling on a listed company to take this step.
Individual shareholders supporting the resolution include Labor MPs Siobhain McDonagh and Helen Hayes.
Sainsbury’s, which directly employs more than 189,000 workers, said that in recognition of the “extraordinary work” of its staff, it had raised its basic hourly rate by 5.3% this month.
A spokesperson said: “We pay more than many of our competitors, and overall feedback from colleagues has been positive for our salary review… Our competitive pay rates are in addition to our reduction program for colleagues, the corresponding pension plan and the recently improved family leave policy. .
“As we balance the needs of all our stakeholders, particularly in light of the current cost of living challenges many people in the UK are facing, it is essential that we not only pay our colleagues fairly, but that we are able to invest significantly to provide customers with great value.