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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Small beer from Sainsbury’s

by New Worker correspondent

RETAIL union USDAW recently issued a press release proudly announcing that it has “won at least £10 per hour basic rate for Sainsbury’s and Argos shopworkers in a ground-breaking pay deal – another step forward for the union’s New Deal for Workers campaign”.

Dave Gill, a national officer, added: “This increase is one of the leading rates of the major supermarkets. Food retail staff have provided the essential service of keeping the nation fed and deserve our support, respect and appreciation. Most of all they deserve decent pay and this offer is a welcome boost.”

The £10 per hour is, however, is only 50 pence above the £9.50 that will be the official National Living Wage from start of April. It is presently £8.91 per hour, with the new figure representing a 6.6 per cent rise.

Amongst other things, the union is also seeking a minimum wage of £10 per hour for all workers, with an end to lower rates for younger workers, minimum contracts of 16 hours per week, a ban on zero-hour contracts, improved sick pay for all workers, from day one, at average earnings, and a ban on fire-and-rehire.

It is clear from their last half-year results however, that Sainsbury’s can well afford the much hailed £10 as they have had a good pandemic due to their delivery service. They expect an annual profit of £600 million, up from the previous year’s £541 million, which more than makes up for a £137 million loss from the first year of the pandemic; but even that loss was largely caused by it taking over Argos.

When the then National Minimum Wage was first introduced by the first Blair government as their main sop to the trade unions, the NCP unfashionably criticised the measure because it would most likely see the rate become the standard maximum wage. The news from Sainsbury’s suggests we were spot on.