Sainsbury's chief accused of using pay rises as "smokescreen" for cutting staff benefits

Helen Cahill
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The supermarket is increasing its basic level of pay (Source: Getty)

Sainsbury's chief executive is under pressure from an MP for the "shocking downgrading" of contracts offered to staff.

Yesterday Sainsbury's said it was increasing basic pay for its staff, but simultaneously announced a series of changes to staff benefits. Sainsbury's workers will no longer receive paid breaks, and will no longer be offering premium pay for those working unsocial hours.

Read more: Sainsbury's raises basic pay while cutting paid breaks

Mike Coupe, Sainsbury's chief executive, has received a letter from Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh criticising him for the changes and asking for a meeting to talk through the contracts.

The letter, seen by City A.M., accuses Coupe of using pay rises as a "smokescreen" for the erosion of staff benefits.

"How is it reasonable for an employer in the 21st century not to pay their staff for their 15 minute break if they are doing a full seven hour shift?" she said.

"Staff who have dedicated their lives to your organisation and are extremely loyal towards it will lose out most in these shocking proposals. I am dismayed that a company of Sainsbury's reputation would treat its most dedicated long-term staff in this matter."

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Retailers are facing a hike in costs next month when the government increases the rate for the national living wage from £7.50 per hour to £7.83 per hour.

Although many retailers pay staff more than the minimum wage, changes to the living wage rate will push up costs because firms will need to maintain their pay differentials between those on the lowest wages, and those on higher salaries.

“We look forward to explaining to Siobhain how we are investing over £100m in our store colleagues," a spokesperson for Sainsbury's said.

"This brings our base rate to an industry-leading £9.20, which represents a 30 per cent increase in our colleague base rate over the past four years.”

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