Sainsburys colleague pay

Source: Sainsbury’s

This is the first shareholder resolution filed at a supermarket to become a Living Wage employer

Some of the UK’s biggest investors are calling for Sainsbury’s to sign up for Living Wage accreditation – making it the first-ever shareholder resolution filed at a listed business to become a Living Wage employer.

Those who filed the resolution have claimed that the rise in living costs is putting a strain on many grocery workers, and that there have been “increased reports of supermarket workers using food banks over the course of the pandemic”.

The coalition of shareholders calling for the supermarket to accredit as a Living Wage employer was brought together by responsible investment NGO ShareAction and includes two of the country’s biggest institutional investors, Legal & General and Nest, as well as 108 other individual investors – including two Labour MPs, Siobhain McDonagh and Helen Hayes.

Sainsbury’s is the country’s second-largest grocery chain, directly employing 189,000 workers. In January this year, the company reported expected profits of at least £720m.

“Sainsbury’s could not function without its workers; it therefore has a responsibility to provide them with a decent standard of living,” said resolution co-filer and researcher at the High Pay Centre, Rachel Kay.

“There is certainly the potential to distribute pay more fairly at Sainsbury’s, as in 2021 its CEO received 122 times the pay of its median worker.”

In January this year, Sainsbury’s announced it was upping hourly pay for staff to at least £10 per hour. Whilst the new wages match the real living wage conditions for staff in inner London and outside the capital, ShareAction claims its rate of £10.50 for workers in outer London is “considerably lower” than the real living wage for that region (£11.05).

Read more: ShareAction planning next move after Unilever commits to HFSS reporting

Angeli Benham, senior global ESG manager at Legal & General Investment Management, said: “Sainsbury’s has demonstrated its passion and dedication for being a responsible business through supporting community projects and taking action to minimise its impact on the environment.

“We welcomed its announcement in January, to raise the pay for many working colleagues. We have co-signed this shareholder resolution because we believe all employees, both direct and indirect, who are helping Sainsbury’s to be a sustainable, reputable and impactful business deserve to be paid the real living wage.”

While Sainsbury’s is the first target of the investor coalition managing £2.2 trillion, shareholders are set to write to all UK supermarkets next week asking them to become Living Wage employers. Half of the FTSE 100 companies have already become Living Wage accredited.

In a recent press conference, the John Lewis Partnership’s executive team was asked about potentially accrediting to the scheme following its commitment to pay colleagues the voluntary living wage.

But CFO Bérangère Michel said the group did not intend to become accredited by the Living Wage Foundation as it wanted to be in charge of its financial flexibility.

Earlier this year, a shareholder resolution filed by ShareAction against Unilever saw the food manufacturing giant agree to transparent reporting on HFSS products and growing the proportion of its sales from healthier products.