Board members at Kingfisher’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) tomorrow will be called upon to pay B&Q staff the Living Wage set out by the Living Wage Foundation. Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, will attend the AGM on 15 June to ask the board to reassess and reverse the cuts made to B&Q staff rewards. The voluntary Living Wage Foundation’s (LFW) Living Wage is higher than the Government’s National Living Wage (NLW).
McDonagh will ask the board to reaffirm its values as a sustainable business leader and employer of choice by paying the voluntary Living Wage McDonagh is attending the AGM as a representative of ShareAction, a charity which promotes Responsible Investment. ShareAction’s AGM Army project supports individuals to attend company AGMs and raise issues directly with the board.
Citizens UK, a community organising charity, has been leading the Living Wage campaign since it was first launched in East London in 2001. There are now over 2,600 accredited Living Wage employers with the Living Wage Foundation, including IKEA, Nestle and Chelsea FC. ShareAction runs a programme to promote the Living Wage at FTSE100 companies, backed by a coalition of investors representing £50bn in assets. So far 29 of the FTSE100 have accredited.
Kerry Coke, a leader for South London Citizens in Merton, explained why the Living Wage is an important issue in her community. She said: “We have a number of B&Q employees in our community. They are a big employer in our area, and it’s hard for local families to make ends meet without a Living Wage to pay the bills and buy essentials. The cost of living in London is becoming ever more expensive and we feel families deserve to earn a wage that truly reflects the cost of living which the Government’s so called NLW doesn’t adequately do.”
The LWF’s rate of pay is independently calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK. The Foundation announces its new rate every November during Living Wage Week. The current rate is £9.40 per hour in London and £8.25 elsewhere in the UK.
This is not to be confused with George Osborne’s budget announcement in 2015 when he announced a hike in the minimum wage for over 25s to £7.20, rising to £9 per hour by 2020, calling it the ‘National Living Wage’ when in fact it was a new national minimum wage.
Upon the introduction of the Government’s so called NMW in April of this year, much debate has surrounded the way it has been implemented by many employers such as B&Q who have been accused of reducing pay elsewhere in order to fund it, such as cuts to Sunday pay. A change.org petition to highlight this was set up by an anonymous B&Q employee which has subsequently received over 143,000 signatures. The employee said: “B&Q is a large part of Kingfisher and has always prided itself on having family values. Does Kingfisher feel it’s acceptable to cut pay and rewards for the oldest members of its family? What impact will that have on morale in stores?”
McDonagh has been vocal in her criticism of the way employers have implemented the new minimum wage premium for over 25s, since hearing from a number of concerned B&Q employees in her south London constituency – many of whom could have been up to £2000 worse off under the proposals.
In advance of the AGM, McDonagh said: “I am very much looking forward to having the opportunity to hold B&Q to account for its actions at the Kingfisher AGM.
“As a result of my campaign against B&Q’s contractual changes, which would have left thousands of employees significantly worse off, I was glad that B&Q decided to extend their period of compensation for a total of 24 months. However, along with Citizens UK, I am very worried about what will happen after this period is over, and we have had no assurances from B&Q that no employees will lose out. I will be asking B&Q executives what progress they have made regarding to what will happen after this compensation period is over.”
In response to the pressure, Kingfisher has since claimed that the company will compensate any workers who are worse off under the new proposals. But South London Citizens leaders want them to go further.
Pete Brierley, Lead Organiser for South London Citizens, said: “We support any rise in the minimum wage. The Government’s so called NMW announcement is a response to years of campaigning for fairer pay by Citizens UK. But we must remember that for many low paid workers, this rate still doesn’t cover the cost of living, particularly in London. Responsible employers, like we hope B&Q will prove to be, can and should pay more than the statutory minimum and pay the Living Wage as calculated by the LWF to reflect the true cost of living.”
Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive at ShareAction, said: “We’re delighted to support Siobhain McDonagh MP to attend the Kingfisher AGM to put the issue of fair pay firmly on the board’s agenda. She is one of hundreds of people that have been supported by ShareAction to bring issues to the attention of board directors of FTSE 100 companies. Company AGMs are a vital arena in which directors can be held to account. This is economic democracy in action.”