Sainsbury’s has said it is committed to paying staff “as fully as possible” just days before shareholders prepare to vote on whether it will be the first major UK supermarket to become a Living Wage employer.
The vote follows Sainsbury’s recently increasing the minimum wage for its employees in January, raising wages to £9.90 an hour outside of London and £11.05 an hour for workers in the city, more in line with living wage standards.
Following months of calls from shareholders and activists, Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts said the company was committed to “paying our colleagues the living wage and making sure we support them as much as we can”.
Roberts came under fire recently for bagging a £3.8m pay and bonus package as reports were emerging that retail staff were having to use food banks amid the cost-of-living crisis.
He told reporters that he was aware his job was a “privileged” one, but that he was “absolutely committed and determined to keep making sure we do the right things for our colleagues and customers.
“It’s a challenging time for everybody and our colleagues working on the shop floor are doing an amazing job and I spend as much of my time as possible making sure we’re doing everything we can to support them,” Roberts added.
The company is set to face a vote at the upcoming shareholder AGM this Thursday, 7 July. The argument for becoming Living Wage accredited recently gained further support from the public, as over 100,000 people signed a petition to ask Sainsbury’s to make the official commitment.
The supermarket giant also reported a drop in sales in its first quarter, revealing that there was a 2.4% dip in grocery sales compared to the same period last year.
“I would like to thank my colleagues for their brilliant efforts this quarter. We are proud to be the first major supermarket to pay the Living Wage to all colleagues, regardless of where they live – and to have increased Sainsbury’s colleague pay by 25% and Argos by 39% over the past five years,” said Roberts.
He continued: “The pressure on household budgets will only intensify over the remainder of the year and I am very clear that doing the right thing for our customers and colleagues will remain at the very top of our agenda.”