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MPs urge Theresa May to take action over Sainsbury's contract changes

Sophie Christie
The letter to Theresa May says staff morale at Sainsbury's is at an 'all time low' - John Stillwell/PA 

More than 100 MPs have signed a letter to Theresa May urging her to take action against the "unscrupulous contract changes" at high street retailer Sainsbury's, which they claim will see "10pc of its staff lose up to £3,000 per year".

The letter, written by Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, and signed by David Lammy among others, says that while the pay rise that some employees will receive under these proposed changes "should be welcomed", it should "not be at the detriment of the estimated 13,000 employees who are set to see their wages slashed".

The contract changes at the supermarket will see staff receive a 15pc basic pay rise but lose out on other remuneration, including bonuses and paid breaks.

Around 130,000 shopfloor staff across almost 1,500 stores will be paid £9.20 an hour, or £9.80 in London, from September of this year. The current basic hourly pay for employees is £8. 

However, while basic pay will increase for the majority of staff, around 10pc will be see their pay packets fall, as the grocer is offsetting pay increases by axing 15 and 30-minute paid breaks, premium pay on Sundays and annual bonuses. 

Sainsbury's said these employees would be supported with "top-up payments" for 18 months to "ensure that no colleague earns less than they do today during this time".

Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe Credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The letter to the Prime Minister continued: "We are completely dismayed that a company of Sainsbury’s' reputation would use an increase in basic pay as a smokescreen for a whole array of deplorable decisions that will hit hardest their most dedicated, loyal and long-term staff."

It added that staff described morale at the store as at an "all time low", with "many concerned that they cannot afford to stay in the job that they love, despite having worked at the organisation for decades".

A change.org petition calling on Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coup to reconsider his position had gathered 104,000 signatures at the time of writing. The petition was started by Sainsbury's worker Michelle Cooper who said she was "one of the thousands of long-standing and loyal Sainsbury's staff who will see our wages plummet". She said she stands to lose more than £1,000 per year as a result of the changes.

Theresa May is being urged to step in following Sainsbury's contract changes Credit: Boris Grdanoski/AP

Simon Roberts, retail and operations director for Sainsbury’s, said: "The changes are about having one fair and consistent contract for all colleagues. This isn’t the case currently and we have many examples of colleagues working side by side in store, doing the same job and being paid differently, depending on when they joined.

"We don’t believe that this letter accurately reflects how the vast majority of our colleagues are feeling. We have conducted meaningful consultation with around 100 colleague representatives and have made a number of changes to our original proposals based on their feedback."

Mr Roberts added that the changes would leave more people "better off" with 93pc of colleagues – around 120,000 people – benefiting immediately.

He continued: "It is extremely disappointing that our plans to make Sainsbury’s colleagues the best-paid in retail are being deliberately misrepresented to such a degree and we would be happy to set the record straight."

Britain’s competition watchdog is gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in its history following the £15bn merger bid by Asda and Sainsbury’s.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is under intense pressure as figures published earlier this month showed around nine million households shopped at both supermarket chains over the past three months, with the duo controlling around 31.4pc of Britain’s grocery market between them, comfortably ahead of current industry leader Tesco’s 27.6pc.