(As featured on Labour List)
SIGN THE PETITION HERE: https://www.change.org/p/support-sainsbury-s-shop-floor-staff-s-working-rights-we-re-not-in-the-money
Since 1869, Sainsbury’s has been a pillar of
the great British high street. Over 148 years, they have established a
reputation as a leading retailer that looks after and out for their colleagues
and customers. That’s why their proposals to force unscrupulous contract
changes upon their staff are so appalling.
On the table for 9,000 of their most loyal and
longstanding employees is a pay cut of up to £3,000 per year, all under the
guise of an ‘increase in basic pay’. Why? Because Sainsbury’s are scrapping
paid breaks and Sunday premium pay, shortening the nightshift, and removing the
bonus scheme for shop floor staff (though the management will of course keep
And for those staff who refuse to sign these new
contracts? They will be forced to resign.
Sainsbury’s values, they are forcing thousands of dedicated staff to ‘work well
And as a Labour Party, we have a duty to ensure that
their voices are heard.
Take Jayne, a night shift worker at Sainsbury’s for over
30 years, set to lose £2,000 per year. She loves her job and desperately wants
to stay but does not think she can afford
to do so. She describes morale in her store as ‘at rock bottom’ and tells me
that she is beyond frustrated that her decades of loyal service appear to count
But Jayne is one of dozens of negatively affected staff
who have written to me from across the country. And so I have met, twice, with
senior Sainsbury’s staff in Parliament to raise their concerns.
It was the language used in these meetings by Simon
Roberts, Retail and Operations Director, that shocked me most. After confirming
that thousands of staff will lose out under their proposals, Mr Roberts
described those losing the highest figures as ‘anomalies’. But I don’t see them
as anomalies. I see them as longstanding, loyal staff who have dedicated
decades of their lives to the organisation. Besides, it is disingenuous of him
to try to skew the figures by discounting those who are most negatively
impacted by these changes.
I can only imagine how infuriated these 9,000 staff must
have felt when watching Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe singing ‘We’re in the Money’
on ITV News.
And so, earlier this month, I sang my own version of the song at Prime Minister’s Questions, after which the Prime Minister
promised to look at the issue. I followed this up with a letter to her signed
by 114 MPs and currently await a response. Since then I have called upon the
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in Parliament to summon Mr
Coupe to justify how he can rob Peter to save Paul under these proposals.
How can a
company that made a 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 their most
longstanding members of staff?
Of course, this is just the latest setback for workers’
rights in this country. Almost a year has now passed since the Taylor Report,
with over 1 million workers still trapped in a workers’-rights-lacking gig
economy. The number of zero hours contracts has grown by over 600% since 2008.
And real wages will have been in decline for 17 years by the time they are
expected to return in 2025 to their pre-crash level.
As for Sainsbury’s, they aren’t the first to treat their
most loyal staff in such an appalling manner. Marks and Spencer’s followed the
same path 2 years ago and we all know what’s happening to them now… Meanwhile,
the complicated merger with ASDA has added an extra layer of confusion for
staff who see their jobs as less secure than ever before.
But Sainsbury’s has the chance to buck the trend. The
consultation is halfway through, with the new contracts set to be signed by
September. The pay rise on offer for the majority of their staff should be
welcomed and encouraged. But this should not be to the detriment of others.
They defend the changes on the lines of ‘fairness’, arguing that long-serving
staff should see their contracts scaled down to match the poorer conditions on
offer for new staff today. How about they level up terms & conditions,
rather than down? That sounds fairer to me.
120,000 colleagues and customers have now signed a
staff-led petition via change.org calling for a show of loyalty: https://www.change.org/p/support-sainsbury-s-shop-floor-staff-s-working-rights-we-re-not-in-the-money and I would encourage all readers to sign and share this
petition using the hashtag #workwellforless.
The staff consultation is approaching its latter stages
and the voices of discontent are growing and amplifying. It’s not too late for
Sainsbury’s to rectify their increasingly damaged brand.
You can read
more about this issue in the press: Press Association, Mirror, Independent, Guardian, Daily
Telegraph, City AM.
You can see my
question to the Prime Minister here: