Should the living wage come at a cost?


Sainsbury’s last week announced it was increasing basic pay for its shop-floor staff, whilst in the public sector there appears to be a pay rise for NHS staff. But what is the real deal?

Last week saw both private and public sector admit, to some degree, that there needs to be some form of change in wage structure in the current economic climate.

Sainsbury’s will be raising their basic rate to £9.20, or £9.80 in London which is a decent level above the governments own legal standard of £7.50, which only applies to those over 25 years old. There will inevitably be some criticism  that this is still being below the independently calculated ‘London Living Wage‘ which some other retailers abide to. However, I do believe that the large retailers, whilst not leading the way, are some of the more progressive employers in terms of basic pay at this moment. Having personally experienced the Hospitality industry’s ruthless attachment to the bare minimum standards of employment law, I look upon the large retailers with a little more optimism.

For me, because of my experience in the hospitality industry, I find it hard to criticise the large retailers, because at least they are making some progress. Even if we can argue that is not enough or that their size should allow them to be leading the way, rather than scraping by.

However in this instance, it appears that the Sainbury’s bosses giveth with one hand and taketh with the other. Whilst basic pay will increase, paid breaks will stop; as too will premium Sunday pay and annual bonuses.

Sainbury’s claim that there would be new contracts for all 130,000 store staff which will ensure “consistence and fairness across all stores, regardless of age or length of service”. Essentially, a conglomerate of nice sounding words that in reality leave thousands worse off. I have no qualms with equality in principle, but this is an example of everyone being equally worse off rather than just most.

NHS staff offered a pay rise, but Government singing from same hymn sheet as Sainsbury’s

ambulance-driving-in-a-winter-15145620517UhWhilst the title of this post demands a focus on the lowest rates of legal pay. I do find it interesting to analyse the Government’s stand on paying its’ own employees in the public sector.

The announcement that NHS staff have been offered a 6.5% pay rise over three years sounds like the positive sharp turnaround in policy that could see a revival of Theresa May’s wittering Conservative government. As with most of the rhetoric we have come to accept from this government it is not backed by any substantial policy. In this case, they have taken straight from Sainsbury’s playbook by including in their offer the deduction of one days annual leave.

These are two completely different cases. One is a multi-million pound private corporation and the other is a democratically elected government. However, in both scenarios we can see a clear lack of respect for those they employ. The UK needs legislative reform surrounding employment, but all we have got is a half-assed reshuffle. The same pay, but given to us in a slightly less fair way.



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