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Coronavirus: Supermarkets 'to Face Day Of Reckoning' On Wages

Apr 22, 2020

Supermarket and shop workers deserve to be paid a minimum of £10 an hour after coronavirus, a union leader has argued.

Paddy Lillis, of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), said retail "heroes" should be rewarded for risking their health to keep people "fed and watered".

He predicted a post-crisis "day of reckoning" on pay and conditions.

But the British Retail Consortium said now was "not the right time" to ask for a wage increase.

It added that, across the retail sector, footfall - the number of people visiting shops - had suffered its "worst ever decline" in March.

The government thanked "all those working tirelessly in our supermarkets to make sure the public can continue to access essential goods".

The average hourly wage for UK sales and customer services workers is £9.77, according to the latest Office for National Statistics data.

The figure is £15.26 across all professions and the national minimum wage for workers over the age of 25 is £8.72 per hour.

"Retail workers don't get the respect they deserve," said Mr Lillis. "It's always been seen by government and local authorities and, dare I say it, even customers, that it's a job you do until you get a 'real job'.

"And I think there's a day of reckoning at the end of this, where there has to be a real recognition that these low-paid workers need to be looked after and given at least £10 an hour - that's a living wage, basically."

Queue to get into supermarketImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionQueues to get into supermarkets have become a common sight

While "non-essential" retailers have been forced to close stores because of coronavirus, supermarkets and convenience shops have remained open.

Social distancing has changed the way they operate, however, with staff and customers being told to stay at least two metres apart while inside and queuing to get in.

But unions have raised concerns that rules are not always being followed and have asked for more personal protective equipment (PPE) to be provided.

Mr Lillis told the BBC he had been assured that more PPE, including masks, was on its way.

But he said self-service checkout areas - where customers are funnelled through a narrow area and may require assistance with scanning and payment - remained a particular concern.

"Supermarket staff aren't quite like medical workers, in that they haven't got to touch people to do their job," he said.

"But because of the movements of people, they're bound to come into near contact with people quite frequently."