The John Lewis Partnership has hit out at a campaigning Labour MP after she produced a Christmas jingle criticising the retailer for how it treats its staff.
Labour MPs, led by Siobhain McDonagh, recently recorded a song – titled "National Living Rage" – to highlight how retailers are cutting staff benefits in response to the national living wage.
But John Lewis bosses have not welcomed the advice, and cancelled a meeting with the MP in response to the video.
Sir Charlie Mayfield, the John Lewis Partnership chairman, and Tracey Killen, the company's director of personnel, were due to meet McDonagh this week discuss the retailer's plans to review staff benefits.
However, Mayfield pulled out because he thought McDonagh was not seeking an "open and constructive dialogue".
He wrote to the MP for Mitcham and Morden:
We were looking forward to meeting but the release of your video just a week before does not give me sufficient confidence that you are seeking the open and constructive dialogue we had hoped for.
I am disappointed by this as we had hoped our meeting this week would have been the start of some positive engagement between us, where I was keen to share and discuss a number of perspectives both from a management and Partner (our employees) perspective.
Mayfield told McDonagh he would reconsider "should you decide on a different tack with your campaign".
The move from John Lewis underscores the heightened tension in the row over how retailers should be responding to the government's decision to raise the national living wage. Former chancellor George Osborne has said that businesses curbing staff benefits were not "acting in the spirit of the law".
Replying to Mayfield's email, McDonagh said: "I am sorry and disappointed at your decision to cancel our meeting tomorrow as, like you, I was looking forward to discussing your plans for your excellent longstanding staff.
"I do hope you might reconsider. I have met with many leading companies and there has never been any suggestion that I have misused those meetings or their contents."
She congratulated Mayfield on the success of the John Lewis Partnership as a business, but added: "I am, however, concerned by the recent unsolicited contact I have had with staff in your organisation who believe that it is the intention of John Lewis to reduce its previously excellent terms and conditions to its staff."
The John Lewis Partnership recently scrapped paid breaks for new Waitrose staff, and has told its employees that premium pay rates for working unsocial hours are under review. When approached for comment, the business said it would not be appropriate to disclose the details of a private meeting.