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Marks & Spencer pay row: M&S makes new offer to workers - but campaigners say it isn't enough

Emma Haslett
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High Street Retailers Facing Bleak Outlook For 2012
M&S has been at loggerheads with its staff after it suggested cuts to some pay (Source: Getty)

Could this be the end of the long-running pay row between Marks & Sparks and its workers? Evidently not: the retailer today announced it had finished consulting with staff over pay, but campaigners don't think its conclusions are enough.

In a statement today M&S said after a "thorough consultation" with its national employee representative group, it was offering a payrise to customer assistants, section co-ordinators and section managers, while premium payments will be simplified. This, after workers hand-delivered a petition to its Oxford Street flagship store yesterday.

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But the retailer said it was pushing ahead with changes to its defined benefit pension scheme, although it is extending the cash supplement support for affected staff from two to three years.

"Over the past three months, we've listened to a huge amount of feedback and, after detailed and active discussion with National BIG, made a number of important changes," said chief executive Steve Rowe in an internal memo seen by City A.M. today.

"Among the changes we have agreed, in response to the feedback you gave BIG, are improved transition arrangements for everyone we consider financially affected by our new approach to pay and premiums."

M&S' OFFER TO STAFF

Pay 
14.7 per cent increase to basic pay for customer assistants, section co-ordinators and section managers from April 2017

Premium payments 
Premiums will be "simplified", with no Sunday premium and one bank holiday rate

Topups 
Salaries of those who will find themselves worse off as a result of the changes will be topped up for two years

Pensions 
Members of the defined benefits scheme will be enrolled into the defined contribution savings plan from April, with a cash supplement for three years

But MP Siobhain McDonagh, who has been a prominent campaigner throughout the row, said the package wasn't enough.

"While we are obviously glad that the new offer is better with regard to pay compensation packages, it still falls short of the offer that longstanding and loyal staff from Britain’s premier retailer really deserve. What M&S is telling them is that even if they work longer hours to make up the difference, they will earn no more money in three years’ time than they do today. How is that fair?"

What's the argument about?

This is not just any pay dispute. M&S became embroiled in a dispute with its workers back in July, when it began consulting on new pay plans which included a 15 per cent rise in basic pay for 62,000 staff - but axing premium pay for those who work on Sundays, bank holidays and anti-social hours.

It also unveiled plans to reduce pension contributions, which were expected to affect 11,000 employees.

At the time, City A.M. was shown documents which suggested staff could face dismissal if they refused to accept the changes.

Since then, the retailer has been locked in a battle with staff, with Rowe coming under pressure after six MPs wrote to him asking him to reconsider the pay cut.

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