Marks & Spencer has been criticised for cutting the pay of approximately 10% of its shop-floor workers by removing premiums for working Sundays and antisocial hours and trimming back bank holiday payments.
The retailer plans to increase basic pay for its 69,000 shop-floor workers by 15% from next April to £8.50 an hour but has offset the cost of doing so by cutting special pay rates.
The changes, announced last month, will give a boost to the majority of staff but long-serving workers – who previously enjoyed premiums for working after 9pm and on Sundays and bank holidays – will lose out.
Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh said some staff members would lose up to £2,000 a year as a result of the changes. “This is not just any pay cut. This is a big fat M&S pay cut,” she said.
Calling on the prime minister during question time in parliament to close loopholes which made such changes possible, McDonagh said: “11,000 of M&S’s most loyal employees, many with over 14 years service, are about to get a serious pay cut – cuts to Sunday, bank holiday and antisocial hours pay, all made on the back of the national living wage, means they’ll take home less next year than they do this year.”
M&S said the planned pay rise would give its staff one of the highest hourly rates in UK retail alongside one of the best benefits packages. All staff affected by the change are to get a one-off compensation payment to ensure they are not financially affected for the first two years of the change.
A spokesperson for Marks & Spencer said: “We believe our proposed new approach to pay and premiums would reward our people in a fair and consistent way, simplify and modernise our business and help us attract and retain the best talent so we can continue to provide great service for our customers. The proposals include one of highest pay rates and one of the best benefit packages in UK retail. We will now consult with our colleagues and listen carefully to their feedback.”
David Cameron said he had not seen details of the pay changes at M&S but wanted to see the “national living wage”, a new minimum wage for over-25s, feed through into “higher take home pay, not lower take home pay … We would urge all companies to make sure that is the case,” he said.
The government faces pressure to crack down on companies offsetting rises in basic pay by removing other benefits. In recent months, a string of firms, from fish factories in Grimsby to coffee shops in central London, have withdrawn overtime, Sunday pay, bonuses, free food and paid breaks in order to keep the wage bill down.
Major retailers including Tesco, Morrisons and B&Q have faced protests over implementing cuts to benefits alongside increases in basic pay.
McDonagh is campaigning to persuade the government to prevent such changes by, for example, insisting that staff are paid for the legally required 20-minute break in a six-hour shift.
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