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

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 living wage for all staff and contract workers.

The vote at the UK’s second-largest supermarket chain’s annual shareholders’ meeting on July 7 will be the first resolution committing a UK company’s board to pay the living wage.

ShareAction, the responsible investment campaign group, said the resolution would be a “litmus test for investors’ social commitments in the context of the cost of living crisis”.

The city’s major investors, including HSBC, Legal & General Investment Management and Fidelity International, as well as the Nest Pension Fund and the Brunel Pension Partnership, are already part of the coalition behind the resolution which comes as the Family budgets are squeezed by soaring inflation.

Sainsbury’s has raised the wages of its 171,000 direct employees in more than 1,400 UK stores to Living Wage, which is independently calculated for the charity Living Wage Foundation, by at least £9.90 an hour outside London or £11.05 in the capital. However, he did not make the same commitment to entrepreneurs. Outsourced companies such as Mitie provide essential services such as cleaning and security at the supermarket.

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

More than half of the FTSE 100 are among more than 10,000 accredited Living Wage employers. However, none of the major supermarkets are among them.

The government’s National Living Wage, which sets statutory minimum rates, pays £9.50 for people aged 23 and over, before dropping to £6.83 for people aged 18 and over and £4.81 £ for apprentices.

Rachel Hargreaves, Campaigns Manager at ShareAction said: ‘There is no excuse for a highly profitable company with multi-million pound management salaries refusing to guarantee all its staff, including contract workers, a basic standard of living.’

With rising energy and food costs, the lowest paid workers in the UK are particularly under pressure.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that the poorest households faced inflation of 10.9% in the year ending April, three percentage points higher than top earners. .

Sign up for the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

However, the UK’s Office for National Statistics recently shared data showing wages for retail workers rose just 3.7% in the year to April.

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

Tesco chairman John Allan used a similar argument when asked about the UK’s biggest supermarket chain accrediting the living wage at its annual shareholders’ meeting on June 17. He said Tesco had tried to fix wages through negotiations with unions, adding: “We are very concerned about committing to a living wage and putting our wage structure at the mercy of a decision by one-third,” he told shareholders at the meeting. .

Michael A. Bynum