There is currently a campaign running calling on Tesco to pay the Living Wage. I will declare my interests at this point. I work for a Living Wage employer and I’m proud of it. And I don’t shop at Tesco.
The Tesco campaign has recently included doctored supermarket price tags placed in the store, highlighting the size of their pre-tax profits.
Tesco have responded to the campaign, highlighting that their reward package includes shopping discounts, pension contributions and a share scheme. They claim that when all of these additional benefits are taken into account, their rates of pay are over the Living Wage. However, to be a Living Wage employer, it’s about the wage. The hourly rate. Not the extra bits.
But here’s the thing. Tesco are a commercial organisation. And therefore they are only going to implement the Living Wage for commercial reasons. Whether it is good PR, an enhanced employer brand, something straight to the bottom line, or just to get away from the embarrassing headlines, there needs to be something in it for them. So maybe the extra on the salary bill doesn’t balance out for them right now. I don’t presume to know their reasons.
What I do know is that low pay is an issue that affects us all. Around five million people are considered to be low paid. Many people, fuelled by tabloid headlines, think that the benefits bill goes to the lazy unemployed. Actually more than 20% of the cost of welfare goes to supporting people on low incomes. You can find a great post on this by @FlipChartRick here. We live in a country in which you can be in work and in poverty at the same time.
I vividly recall one of my early HR roles, working in an environment where we paid our operational employees just the national minimum wage. I remember one man telling me, the day before pay day, that his kids were having toast for dinner that night. They’d had it for dinner the day before too. Because that was all the food that was in the house until his wages hit his bank account.
The Living Wage makes a real difference to real people.
There is however, a question in this for all of us. If Tesco paid the Living Wage and it added a few pence to the cost of your bread and milk, would you still shop there? Or would you head down to Aldi instead?