Sainsbury’s shareholders appear to rule out living wage accreditation

Sainsbury’s shareholders appear to rule out living wage accreditation

Shareholders in Sainsbury’s appear to have rejected a call for the business to become an accredited living wage employer after the company’s chairman told them it would reduce his flexibility.

Chairman Martin Scicluna revealed that 83% of the preliminary vote had been cast against a shareholder resolution that was opposed by the board.

He said that becoming an accredited living wage employer would reduce the company’s flexibility even as the cost of living for its staff soars.

Mr Scicluna said that he believes the company pays well, but rejected the call from non-profit group ShareAction.

“We are the leader in the supermarket world in paying the living wage right now. We’ve got an amazing track record of being a responsible business. And there are other retailers who frankly have not demonstrated that they’re responsible,” he said, pointing to the return of business rates relief to the Government, among other things.

“We believe we have behaved very, very responsibly, the only difference between your co-filers and us is that we don’t want to go the full length of being accredited,” he told ShareAction.

“We feel that does not give us the flexibility when we’re trying to balance the needs of all the stakeholders.”

ShareAction and others – including Legal & General, HSBC and Nest – had asked Sainsbury’s to ensure that it paid all of its 189,000 colleagues a living wage amid the cost-of-living crisis. The company already pays its in-house staff the living wage.

But the accreditation would force Sainsbury’s to commit to keeping up with the living wage in coming years, and also to ensure contractors were paid a living wage.

ShareAction said that supermarket staff had been recognised as key workers during the pandemic, keeping food on the table of households.

The public therefore expects them to be appropriately rewarded, it said, yet they are one of the largest groups of low-paid workers in the country.

ShareAction  said that around half of companies in the FTSE 100 – of which Sainsbury’s is a member – are accredited.