Marks and Spencer chairman rejects demand for reversal of company's benefit cuts

Helen Cahill
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M&S will post a trading update on Thursday (Source: Getty)

The chairman of high street stalwart Marks and Spencer has defended the company's decision to cut some of the benefits it offers to employees.

Last year M&S staff were asked to sign new contracts ending benefits such as double pay for employees working on Sundays. MPs asked to meet M&S chief executive Steve Rowe to discuss the changes, but he declined.

Read more: All eyes on M&S clothing as the retailer unveils its latest results

Several retailers, including Morrisons and the John Lewis Partnership, have been removing employee benefits following the introduction of the national living wage.

In a letter sent to chairman Robert Swannell before Christmas, Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh wrote:

I ask that you reconsider M&S' pay changes at January's board meeting, and revoke the new contract that will see so many of your loyal staff lose out.

Swannell - who will step down as chairman this year - said the business had listened to employees during a consultation period and will not be reverse its decision.

"We do not accept your assertion that we have pushed through 'pay cuts' that are detrimental to thousands of our staff, nor the suggestion that staff who have signed the contract amendment have had no choice but to do so," he said.

Read more: M&S chairman Robert Swannell is leaving

The news came after it emerged the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership refused to meet McDonagh after he saw a song on YouTube made by her and other MPs. The song was part of the MPs' campaign against retailers' response to the national living wage.

Sir Charlie Mayfield said the song - titled "National Living Rage" - showed that McDonagh was not interested in "open and constructive dialogue".

A spokesperson for M&S said: "The changes to pay and premiums, which come into effect from April, will reward our people in a fair and consistent way, simplify and modernise our business and make our colleagues among the highest paid in UK retail.

"Nobody need be worse off and the vast majority will receive higher total pay."

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