Union urges M&S to consult on pension and pay changes

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A union representing retail staff has urged retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) not to go ahead with planned changes to pensions and pay, and to enter talks with it over the proposals.

The company recently announced plans to change pay rates for its 70,000 shop staff from 2017. This would see pay premiums vanish for Sunday working, the introduction of one rate of bank holiday pay and antisocial hours for some workers cut to between 10pm and 6am – a move that would affect 10 per cent of it staff.

However, the retailer is proposing that basic pay will rise by 15 per cent. This would boost basic pay for shop staff to an hourly rate of £8.50 and to £9.65 per hour in London. M&S says around 90 per cent of its staff would be better off under the planned changes but that it has proposed a one-off compensation payment to those who are negatively affected.

The company, which recently appointed a new chief executive after sales slipped in the last quarter of its last financial year, has also proposed to close its final salary (defined benefit) scheme for future accrual.

Under the plans, the DB scheme – which has been closed to new members since 2002 – would see current members stop accruing benefits from 2017 and transfer them to the company’s defined contribution (DC) scheme. The 11,000 staff affected will be offered a monthly cash supplement for two years, which they could put into their DC plan, take as extra pay or a combination of the two.

The 132-year-old retailer is also reviewing the viability of stores, and it’s report, due in the Autumn, could lead to store closures.

David Gill, national officer at Usdaw, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, said: “Usdaw is the independent trade union for M&S staff and we urge the company to get round the table and engage with us. In the meantime we are asking staff to ensure they raise their concerns with the company’s staff association representatives (the Business Involvement Group), so management is in no doubt of the strength of feeling that members have around the proposals and that they should not proceed with the changes announced.

“We have been contacted by many of our members in M&S who are very concerned about the proposed big changes to their pay and pension, along with the threat of Autumn store closures. Particularly as the company are threatening to sack any staff who do not accept the contractual changes.”

A spokesperson for M&S denied this, stating that staff had been told one option would be that their contracts could be terminated before they were re-engaged on new ones.

“We believe our proposed new approach to pay and pensions 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 are now consulting with our colleagues and listening carefully to their feedback,” the M&S spokesperson said.

Siobhain McDonagh, Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, said she felt one driver for the pay and pension proposals at M&S was the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW). McDonagh has been vocal in the House of Commons about employers cutting pay to offset the cost of the NLW – a topic which has caused considerable consternation among politicians and unions.

“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, [meaning] they’ll take home less next year than they do this year,” she said.

McDonagh said the M&S proposals were a “very good thing for the people who are going to benefit and a truly appalling thing for the people who are not”, adding that those hardest hit would be long-serving staff.

“I would like them to ensure no-one loses out,” McDonagh added. “It is difficult to work out how they have worked out the compensation. In two years’ time, [some] people will earn substantially less than they do at the moment and there is a consultation regarding pensions which would make them still worse off.”

The M&S spokesperson said the company was listening to colleagues around the proposals through its employee representative group, the Business Involvement Group. They added that the company does not have a recognised trade union, although its staff are free to join one.

 

Story via – http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/06/23/union-urges-m-amp-s-to-consult-on-pension-and-pay-changes.aspx

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