Samworth Brothers’ bosses should hang their heads in shame. Just last year Samworth totted up pre-tax profits of a whopping £41.7 million, which is £8.2 million more than the previous year (October 15, Leicester Mercury). At the same time, Samworth paid their workers just £6.89 per hour (basic rate), only a scrape above the legal national minimum wage of £6.70 per hour.
In both instances, such pay is substantially below a real living wage, which the Living Wage Foundation sets at £8.25 an hour, and the Trades Union Congress suggests should be £10 an hour, right now, not at some time in the future.
With the Government’s continuing attacks on working tax credits, to some extent the Government are forced into making some pretence of being on the side of workers, hence from April the national minimum wage will be raised to £7.20 per hour.
The response of Samworth Brothers has been to increase their basic rate of pay to £7.94 an hour. But like the Government, what they give with one hand they take with the other. Hence paid breaks are to be lost, and premium rates for working unsocial hours and overtime, slashed or ditched.
For the lucky workers who only work on day shifts from Monday to Friday, Samworth basic pay will be increased by £1,152 a year.
Yet if we imagine a scenario where workers employed on these weekday daytime shifts had kept their paid breaks and were paid the new legal minimum of £7.20 per hour, they would still have received an increase in pay of £645 a year. So it becomes apparent that the so-called increase in basic pay at Samworth factories soon dissolves into insignificance once one considers the cutting back on premium and overtime pay.
A lot therefore rides upon which types of premium pay will be maintained, if any. This explains why many workers employed during unsocial hours face pay cuts, not increases, with some set to lose as much as £3,000 a year from Samworth’s proposed changes (February 15, Mercury).
Samworth bosses plead that only a “small number of people may see a modest fall in earnings” which they say is “likely to be around £4-£5 per week” (that is between £208 and £260 a year). But this number is not factual: as an employee working just four Sunday’s a year will already have lost around the same amount if their double-time premium is ditched.
Clearly despite the Samworth Brothers attempts to spin their pay cuts as a positive for the majority of workers, their employees can see through their bosses blatant attacks on their livelihoods. This is why nearly 500 people have joined the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union in the past few weeks, and why many more are continuing to join.
Indeed, having a union recognised in a workplace to give a collective voice to workers concerns is critical when dealing with any boss, which is more than demonstrated by the significantly better pay and conditions fought for by workers in unionised workplaces across the country.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on February 14.