Sainsbury's, photo Elliot Brown/CC

Sainsbury’s, photo Elliot Brown/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Bernard Davies, Sainsbury’s Usdaw shop steward (personal capacity)

In September 2018, Sainsbury’s ‘Band 2’ workers were offered a contract that claimed “the future is great pay” as one of its “destinations”. Only it wasn’t an offer, it was an ultimatum: accept the changes to your contract or leave our employment.

Sainsbury’s contract followed similar moves made by all of the ‘big four’ retailers. The contract, initially, claimed to offer an “industry-leading rate of pay” but removed benefits such as shift premium pockets, annual bonuses, and paid breaks. On completion of a “listening exercise”, Sainsbury’s claimed that the base rate was more important to its workers.

At the required consultation with the trade unions, Sainsbury’s claimed that, in the future, it would be putting as much into the base rate as possible. The initial offer was £9.20 per hour (take it or leave it).

It is now widely accepted that the ‘big four’ food retailers are among those that have benefited most from the Covid-19 pandemic. And that retail sector workers have been key to keeping the country fed.

The 2021 pay offer of 20p an hour (2.15%) means that, since September 2018, Sainsbury’s Band 2 workers have received an increase of 30p (3.26%) on the initial “industry-leading” base rate of pay. That’s just over 1% per year. An insult to the hard work of Sainsbury’s employees.

In contrast, and following negotiations with Usdaw, the offer of £10 per hour by Morrison’s to its employees, although far short of the £12 an hour wage Usdaw should be aiming for, begins to recognise the key worker status of retail employees.

It also exposes the partnership agreement Sainsbury’s has with the major retail trade union, Usdaw.

Instead, Usdaw should be working with the other recognised union in Sainsbury’s, Unite, to fight for pay to keep pace with the other supermarkets like Morrisons, by organising the collective strength of the workforce to challenge management’s diktats. This is the only way Sainsbury’s workers can be ensured of a future of, “great pay”.

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