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Sainsbury's criticised by MPs and staff over new 'dogsbody' contracts

The supermarket says more than 100,000 staff will get a pay rise but others are set to miss out, MPs warn

Caitlin Morrison
Thursday 24 May 2018 12:52 BST
Sainsbury's CEO: Sainsbury's-Asda merger won't result in any store closures

Sainsbury’s says it is boosting pay for more than 120,000 employees, raising hourly rates from £8 to £9.20, under new contracts but it has come under fire from MPs and staff who say thousands will be left out of pocket due to the changes.

The company says its workers will receive an average 9.3 per cent pay rise as part of a £110m investment in the group, following a consultation with staff.

Sainsbury’s retail and operations director Simon Roberts said: “I believe this is the right thing to do and am proud to be offering such a significant pay boost to over 120,000 store colleagues across the country.

“The changes we are introducing from September will make pay and contracts fair and consistent for all of our colleagues, in every store, regardless of age or length of service. ”

However, the contract changes that will introduce the new pay rates also mean staff will no longer be paid for breaks. The new deal will also get rid of a discretionary bonus scheme previously available for hourly paid workers, and premium pay rates for night shift work will be restricted to between midnight and 5am.

One Sainsbury’s worker told The Independent that many staff felt they were being given an ultimatum over the contracts, and because many of those affected are older workers, there are concerns about their ability to find new jobs.

The supermarket is also reducing the number of contract types it offers, moving from 22 specific roles, to five broader contracts.

The Sainsbury’s staff member said: “It’s a dogsbody contract – instead of being on different contracts we’ll be on one general contract. So they’ll be able to ask us to do whatever they want.”

Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, has been campaigning on behalf of a group of around 9,000 workers, who she says will actually lose money under the new rules.

Earlier this week, a letter written by Ms McDonagh and signed by more than 100 MPs was sent to the prime minister, asking her to take action.

“We are disappointed that 9,000 members of the most loyal staff are going to receive a pay cut,” she told The Independent on Thursday.

“We suspect that a lot of them are older and have probably given years of service.

“They shouldn’t be hit because they are loyal and hard working and work the unpopular hours.”

Ms McDonagh added: “How can a company that made pre-tax profit of £589m last year, with a CEO that receives £930,000 before bonuses, think it is right to force a pay cut on thousands of their most long-standing and loyal members of staff? It’s not right and it’s not British to ask people to work well for less.”

Sainsbury’s has said it will give top-up payments for up to 18 months in order to ensure that no workers take a pay cut. After the 18-month period, the company will conduct another pay review.

A spokesperson for the supermarket said: “If you look at the retail environment it’s tough out there, as we’ve seen in the announcement from M&S this week [the retailer revealed plans to close 100 stores], whereas what we are doing is offering a significant pay rise and we are disappointed that it’s being misrepresented in this way.”

Sainsbury’s also attempted to quell the backlash on Thursday by saying talks with staff were finished, and it would invest an extra £10m in its proposed pay rates.​

Following chief executive Mike Coupe’s pledge that no jobs would be lost as a result of the proposed merger with Asda, Ms McDonagh said she hoped regulators would seek that assurance in writing.

“We already have experience of companies like Kraft making commitments that, when the ink’s dry on the deal, they forget,” she added.

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