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Sainsbury’s braces for backlash from shareholders over pay

Sainsbury is preparing for a backlash from shareholders over pay when confronted with investors at its AGM

  • Grocers are required to pay independently determined living wages to all workers
  • Share Action wants the supermarket to pay £9.90 across the UK and £11.05 in London
  • Activist Rachel Hargreaves said: “The business case is compelling”

Sainsbury’s is preparing for a backlash from shareholders over pay when it confronts investors at its annual general meeting on Thursday.

The UK’s second largest grocer faces demands to pay the independently set living wage for all staff and contract workers.

Share Action, a responsible investment charity, has tabled a resolution urging the supermarket to commit to paying what is currently £9.90 an hour across the UK and £11.05 an hour in London .

Demand: The UK’s second largest grocer is facing demands to pay the independently set living wage for all staff and contract workers

Rachel Hargreaves, Share Action’s campaign manager, is not only right in saying, “the business case is compelling.” She said: “There is no excuse for a highly profitable company with multi-million pound salaries to refuse to guarantee all staff a basic standard of living.” Sainsbury’s has urged shareholders to reject the application because it manages its own wage bill want. It has spent £100m this year raising salaries and became the first major retailer to pay real living expenses.

Chairman Martin Scicluna has argued that Sainsbury’s is paying more than rival grocers.

In a letter to shareholders, he said: ‘We believe it is right to make independent decisions rather than having them determined by a separate external body.’

Shareholder advisors ISS and Glass Lewis have also recommended that shareholders vote against the motion. It requires 75 percent approval to pass, but even 20 percent approval would force Sainsbury’s to hold discussions with shareholders on the issue.

But the movement has garnered high-profile supporters and set the stage for rebellion. In recent weeks, insurer Aviva, which owns a 0.3 per cent stake in Sainsbury’s worth £15million, said it would support the application. Other supporters include Fidelity International, HSBC Asset Management and the Queen’s Bank, Coutts.

The showdown comes a month after Sainsbury’s boss Simon Roberts faced backlash after his salary tripled to £3.8million – 183 times the average Sainsbury’s employee.

Danny Magill of The Equality Trust said: “Low wages breed inequality, which slows economic growth and fuels instability, posing significant risks for investors. We expect investors to support this resolution.’

Sainsbury’s posted a profit of £730m for the 12 months to March 5.

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Sainsbury’s braces for backlash from shareholders over pay

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