Implementing a set pay ratio at the Co-operative Group will validate the society’s claim to be “here for you, for life”, according to elected members.
The Scotland and Northern Ireland region led the calls for the board to research and adopt a policy on pay ratios by its November half yearly meeting.
It cites research from the Work Foundation that said that top public servants should normally be paid no more than 20 times that of their lowest paid employees. It also said the Midcounties Co-operative CEO is paid 35 times as much as the lowest-paid employee.
The motion further read: “Development of an appropriate co-operative pay ratio would, according to the Equality Trust (who called it ‘the new Fairtrade’), improve public perception, demonstrate that the whole workforce matters, and tackle wider inequality. It would validate our commitment that we are ‘here for you for life’.”
Scotland and Northern Ireland delegate Struan Ferguson told delegates: “When I speak to employees and members, they cannot get their head around why we’re paying a high wage to executives when we have published our worse results in 150 years.”
The Group board said the human resources team is investigating a reward strategy to roll out across the whole of the society. “Until now, our individual businesses have had their own reward policies with minimal guidance from the corporate centre,” said the board.
It added: “The team is looking at a number of areas including: where we want to position ourselves in terms of total remuneration in the market; what we can afford; bonus potential for all at all grades and levels in the organisation; and the concept of what we are calling ‘fair pay’ for our customer-facing colleagues, which includes how we can increase our basic hourly rate without losing the shift flexibility our colleagues enjoy now.
“We are not specifically looking at pay ratios. We have a number of diverse businesses in our portfolio and to attract talent we need to remain competitive in the market place. We are not a public sector employer and we need to be able to compete with the likes of ASDA, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Aviva etc for talent, especially with a large corporate centre being based in the North West of England.”
Group director Eric Calderwood urged delegates to not vote for the motion. “We’re already addressing this issue from a different perspective,” he said. “Some of the payments appear to be excessive, but if we look at it from a totally different perspective, what can we do to give all our members of staff a decent level of pay? We are already engaging unions and looking at customer-facing staff.”
Chair Ursula Lidbetter added: “Nobody wants to pay a penny more than is necessary. I’m conscious that every penny comes from our members.”
In total, 68% of the votes were in favour of the motion.
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