While Sainsbury’s was the first supermarket to pay all of its in-house staff the real living wage, investors refused to extend this to third party contractors such as cleaners or security staff, meaning it can’t be classed as a living wage employer.
Becoming an accredited living wage employer would also commit the supermarket to increasing its rate of pay each year’s new calculation of the real living wage.
“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,” Scicluna told ShareAction, which campaigns for responsible investment and tabled the motion at the Sainsbury’s AGM.
“We believe we have behaved very, very responsibly, the only difference … is that we don’t want to go the full length of being accredited,” he continued.
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ShareAction’s Rachel Hargreaves said while the motion received significant shareholder support, “a large proportion of shareholders chose to prioritise short-term returns over the real long-term issue: rising inequality in our society.”
She added: “As we deal with the continued effects of the cost-of-living crisis, the conversation around low pay isn’t going to go away, and both employers and investors need to step up.”
In response to soaring inflation, The Living Wage Foundation has announced it will be bringing its 2022-23 rate forward by two months to September, in response to the rising cost of living.
Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation said: “Although the wait for a living wage accredited supermarket continues, Sainsbury’s deserves credit for increasing the pay to all directly employed staff to at least the real living wage.”