THE shopworkers union Usdaw has hailed the Co-op Movement as "an employer with a difference" after negotiating a substantial pay rise for lower paid shop staff.
More than 35,000 workers employed by retail societies will see their hourly rate rise to £ 5 an hour in the autumn after the Co-operative Employers Association agreed a 10.4 per cent pay increase for staff employed as general assistants, checkout operators and others (grades B, C and D).
Arrangements are now being put in place for an in-store ballot. Staff on other grades have been offered between 7.5 and 3 per cent. If accepted, all the new rates will be effective from October 1st.
The proposed deal will put Co-op store staff over 22 on an hourly rate 15p above the new national minimum wage of £ 4.85, which is also due to apply from October.
Co-operative Employers Association Secretary Wayne Lee told the News: "We have always supported the concept of a national minimum wage and welcomed its introduction.
"However we do regard it as an absolute minimum and for that reason we worked with Usdaw to agree the new deal."
Usdaw National Officer Sharon Ainsworth, who led the union's negotiating team, said: "We are delighted with this excellent offer and will be strongly recommending it to our membership. I'm sure those workers, particularly on grades B, C and D will warmly welcome this substantial rise in their take-home pay.
"I'd like to congratulate the Co-operative Movement on their responsible approach to these negotiations. Once again they have proved they are an employer with a difference."
Three proposals calling for the national minimum wage to apply to all workers over 16 ? one of them submitted by Usdaw's Yorkshire Region Co-op staff ? will be debated at the union's annual delegate meeting in Blackpool, which runs from Sunday 25th April to Wednesday 28th.
A new rate of £ 3 per hour will apply to 16 and 17 year-olds from October, but Usdaw activists say the adult national minimum rate should apply to all workers to end the exploitation of young people.