A new direct-action protest group "Pay Up!" launched itself by picketing Sainsbury's corporate headquarters in Holborn over low wages which leaves many employees unable to pay housing costs, forcing them to claim benefits to survive.
Formed by activists from UK Uncut, Occupy, Unite the Union and community organisations, Pay Up, which plans to go national as quickly as possible, chose Sainsbury's to launch their campaign against "employment poverty" which sees thousands of Sainsbury's shop-floor employees being paid only the UK minimum wage which amounts to £6.08p per hour for over-21s, £4.98p for 18-20s and £3.68p for 16-17 yrs old school leavers. These employees, say Pay Up, should be receiving the nationally recognised "Living Wage" of £7.20 per hour in the regions, and £8.30p in London.
Sainsbury's has seen profit's rise 299% over the past 7 years, whilst their workers on low pay have been forced to accept a pay freeze which, in the face of current inflation, is effectively a wage cut, and a huge number of Sainsbury's full and part-time staff are having to apply for housing benefits and other benefits just to survive, despite the retail grocery giant posting year-end profits for 2011 of £712 million - a 7% increase on 2010, despite the double-dip recession.
It is outrageous, say Pay Up, that some Sainsbury's employees are so badly paid that they are forced to drain the benefits system just to survive, whilst Sainsbury's are turning a huge profit and are planning to increase core spending in 2012-2013 to £1bn and also to increase payouts to their stockholders. The company boasted disingenuously last week that their employees "will receive on average a £600 bonus", which translates to as little as £49 for many employees who are denied enough working hours to sustain a basic living. The overwhelming bulk of the bonus pot will go to the already-well paid managers and directors.