Jul 3rd, 2014
Tesco’s AGM last week: Amy’s action
By Rebecca Falcon
This blog post has been written by Amy, a former Tesco employee and 38 Degrees member, who has started the campaign to make Tesco pay the Living Wage.
I went to the Tesco AGM to raise the issue of a Living Wage.
Over 32,500 people had already signed mine & ShareAction’s petition on Campaigns By You calling on Tesco CEO Philip Clarke to ‘pay fair’. As nervous as I was, knowing thousands of people were standing behind me I felt ready to take on the retail giant.
I began the day digging out my smart jacket from Year 11 and removing the name tag my mother had sewn in. Once at the AGM I spoke to a lot of journalists before I was escorted into the AGM. After what seemed like an age of angry questions from shareholders to the Board, it was finally time to ask my own question.
“Good morning, my name is Amy Bradley. I am here as a proxy for Ian Langrish.
I worked at Tesco for the past seven years, and I’m grateful for the opportunities and training I was given to progress from a Saturday till girl to a service manager.
Today I am here to ask Tesco directors to make sure all staff receive enough take home pay to meet their basic needs. While I was lucky to advance to a level of pay that meant I had enough to get by, many of my colleagues in Oxfordshire struggled.
I’m still in contact with lots of people who became good friends in my Tesco years. I’m here today for them. I believe Tesco could and should commit to becoming a Living Wage employer.
This would make such a difference to everyone at Tesco’s, not just those who are paid the least. It would help make Tesco a stronger business and certainly make you a leader for other supermarkets to follow.
More than 30,000 of Tesco’s customers, staff and community members agree with me on this. I would like to present a petition with these 30,000 signatures. I have them here with me. Could I give this to you immediately after the meeting?
I know Tesco offers many benefits and has responded by stating that you pay Living Wage rates when these are included in the calculation. Benefits are certainly appreciated, but most of Tesco’s staff benefits don’t help people to pay their rent and bills.
I hope you are listening. Will you commit to a meeting with investors and with Citizens UK to discuss how Tesco could take a lead within retail on the Living Wage?”
Sadly the Chairman of the Board wheeled out Tesco’s standard reply, that when all staff perks are taken into account they ‘top up’ to a Living Wage. As I mentioned in my question, this is a misguided (and misleading!) view of what the Living Wage is about – it is a benchmark to allow people to meet their daily and weekly living costs. ‘Topping up’ wages with benefits like pension contributions – whilst good – do not contribute to paying the rent or heating your house. They should be in addition, not a substitute to a fair wage.
Luckily, post AGM, I was able to have a productive chat with Tesco CEO Philip Clarke who did agree to meet with campaigners to, at least, discuss the issue of a Living Wage.
It’s a long way from agreeing to ‘pay fair’, but it is a start – and hope for the thousands of people standing alongside me to demand that all staff, including contract cleaners and security guards, earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
Now, we just need to nail down a commitment for when this meeting can take place and keep the pressure up on Tesco to deliver substantial answers. I’ll keep you posted on next steps!