Sainsbury’s CEO’s pay triples to £3.8m as firm rejects living wage calls

Sainsbury’s has revealed that its chief executive, Simon Roberts, received pay worth £3.8m in the latest financial year even as it rejected calls from big investors for it to ensure all workers in its stores receive a living wage.

Roberts’s total pay nearly tripled for the year to March from the £1.3m he received in 2021, when he waived his bonus in light of the coronavirus pandemic, according to figures published in the supermarket’s annual report on Monday.

Sainsbury’s said the £3.8m pay packet – 183 times larger than that of the median worker at the supermarket – represented a like-for-like increase of 31% over the year. That compared with 5.3% pay increases for the staff it directly employs in stores, well below the 9% rate of inflation that is causing a cost of living crisis.

Britain’s second-largest supermarket pays the living wage to its 171,000 direct employees across more than 1,400 stores in the UK, but crucially, it has declined to make its contractors pay the living wage of at least £9.90 an hour outside London or £11.05 in the capital. Outsourcing companies such as Mitie provide essential services such as cleaning and security to the supermarket.

However, Sainsbury’s is facing a vote on 7 July brought by shareholders who are pushing for it to set pay in line with levels set by the Living Wage Foundation, a charity. Leading City investors including HSBC, Legal & General Investment Management and Fidelity International are part of the coalition calling for the living wage.

It will be the first living wage shareholder resolution to be filed at a UK company amid scrutiny of supermarkets, which are among Britain’s largest employers. More than half of the FTSE 100 are among the more than 10,000 accredited living wage employers, but none of the big supermarkets are.

Roberts’s pay for 2022 was slightly lower than the £3.9m received by his predecessor, Mike Coupe, for the 2019 financial year. Coupe was infamously filmed singing We’re in the Money, from the musical 42nd Street, while waiting for an interview.

Roberts also received private medical cover and a cash car allowance of £15,250 – equivalent to three-quarters of the annual wage of a UK employee on the UK living wage, based on a 40-hour working week.

Sainsbury’s highlighted its plans to allocate £500m over two years to lower prices on some items. It argued that lower prices will help customers with the cost of living crisis, although it could also benefit if it gains market share at the expense of rivals.

It added: “We are proud to have invested over £100m in increasing colleague pay, including becoming the first major retailer to pay all store colleagues the living wage.

“For our senior executives, we have removed £100m of Covid-related profit from both the annual bonus and share awards calculations, meaning they are lower than they would otherwise be, reflecting our policy that management pay is strictly aligned with the progress we are making for our customers, colleagues and shareholders.”

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