45% of workers in supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury's, earn below 'real living wage'

Saleha Riaz
·3-min read
The report also revealed that supermarkets have some of the largest pay gaps between CEOs and their colleagues. Photo: Getty Images
The report also revealed that supermarkets have some of the largest pay gaps between CEOs and their colleagues. Photo: Getty Images

Almost half (45%) of all workers at UK’s major supermarkets including Tesco (TSCO.L), Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L), Morrisons (MRW.L) and Ocado (OCDO.L) paid their workers less than the ‘real living wage’ in April 2020, a new report by Citizens UK revealed.

The study said some 410,000 supermarket workers earned below the real living wage, which currently stands at £9.50 ($12.94) per hour in the UK outside of London and £10.85 per hour inside of London.

Ed Miliband MP, shadow business secretary, commented on the report, stating that “every worker should be paid a fair wage they can live on. It's just wrong that so many of our key workers, including in sectors like supermarkets and care, are being asked to survive on low pay.

"Labour strongly supports a real living wage of at least £10 an hour. As we rebuild our country and economy after coronavirus, we cannot just go back to business as usual.

“The government must take action to move our country to a real living wage,” he added.

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According to the Living Wage Foundation, the real living wage is the only UK wage rate that is voluntarily paid by 7,000 UK businesses who believe their staff deserve a wage which meets everyday needs, like the weekly shop.

The report said that over 250,000 employees have received a pay rise as a result of its campaign and employers accredited with the foundation include two-fifth of the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) and big household names including Nationwide, Google (GOOG) and Chelsea FC.

The report also revealed that supermarkets have some of the largest pay gaps between CEOs and their colleagues.

Tesco, Morrisons and Ocado are amongst the top 10 FTSE 350 (^FTLC) companies with the biggest gaps.

Luke Hildyard, executive director at the High Pay Centre, who lead the research on pay ratios, said that “market forces might suggest that the going rate for CEOs runs into millions of pounds, while for supermarket workers it isn't enough for them to live on, but when this seems so at odds with people's sense of fairness and the interests of society as a whole, we should question if it should be the only determinant of pay levels."

Citizens UK, which helps low-paid workers to organise for better pay and rights at work, and the High Pay Centre, who supported its research, are calling on the UK’s supermarkets to pay their staff the real living wage and accredit with the Living Wage Foundation.

Citizens UK noted that its report comes out at a time when December was a record month for British supermarkets, with shoppers spending nearly £12bn, the highest Christmas trading result on record.

Matthew Bolton, executive director of Citizens UK, noted that “whilst some employers are really struggling, supermarkets are experiencing bumper sales – yet not a single major supermarket pays all staff and contractors the real living wage. It is unacceptable.”

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