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Sainsbury’s boss faces prospect of grilling by MPs over staff contract changes

Campaigners are asking for Mike Coupe to be hauled in front of an influential select committee.

Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe is facing the prospect of being hauled before MPs to be grilled over the supermarket’s controversial plan to overhaul staff contracts.

The Press Association understands that Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh is writing to Rachel Reeves, chairwoman of the Business Committee, to demand Mr Coupe explains himself in Parliament.

Sainsbury’s is moving staff on to new contracts in September and its plans have proved controversial because the supermarket is scrapping a number of staff benefits.

While Sainsbury’s is increasing its basic pay, it is ending paid breaks and premium pay on Sunday for thousands of staff.

The supermarket has modified its proposals in response to criticism from MPs, but campaigners say its offer still does not go far enough.

Ms McDonagh, who is spearheading the campaign, fears the contract changes will leave 9,000 staff members worse off.

In the letter, Ms McDonagh said: “I have met with senior Sainsbury’s staff on two recent occasions to challenge these proposals, but, as many of these staff live outside of my constituency, I wanted to ensure their plight was raised directly with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

“Considering the life changing implications that these proposals would have on 9,000 Sainsbury’s employees, I ask that you consider a formal summons for Sainsbury’s Chief Executive, Mike Coupe, to appear before the Committee to explain how he can justify slashing the pay of 9,000 of his most longstanding and loyal staff.”

Last week, more than 100 MPs wrote to Theresa May asking her to look at the contract changes, demanding she speak to Mr Coupe to “ensure that no staff will face a pay cut”.

Days later, Sainsbury’s said talks with staff had finished, but that it would invest an extra £10 million to lift its proposed pay rates.

Unite, the union representing shop staff, accused the supermarket of “breaking its promises” because it would not allow employees to sign up to the new pay structure voluntarily.

Mr Coupe is already under pressure from Parliament over Sainsbury’s £12 billion merger with rival Asda.

The merger is currently being scrutinised by the Competition and Markets Authority, and could become the subject of a separate parliamentary inquiry.

Other high-profile retail bosses to be called before Parliament in recent years include Sir Philip Green and Mike Ashley.

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “We appreciate that a minority of colleagues do not stand to benefit from these plans.

“For this reason our proposals have, from the very outset, included top-up payments for an 18-month period to ensure that nobody will earn less than they do today.

“This is guaranteed until March 2020 and we will review our hourly rate of pay again at that point.”

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