Tesco accused of 'misleading' three elected representatives at meeting over pay cut plans

Livingston SNP MP Hannah Bardell has accused Tesco bosses of misleading three elected representatives by claiming problems with their payroll system were part of the reason for cutting the pay of nearly 300 workers at its distribution centre in the town.

Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 4:50 pm
Tesco plans to cut the pay of 290 workers at its distribution centre at Livingston.  Pic Ian Rutherford
Tesco plans to cut the pay of 290 workers at its distribution centre at Livingston. Pic Ian Rutherford

Ms Bardell and her MSP colleagues Angela Constance and Fiona Hyslop, both ministers in the Scottish Government, met Andrew Woolfenden, Tesco’s UK distribution director, earlier this month over the company’s plans to slash between £4,000 and £13,000 a year from the salaries of 290 staff at the Livingston depot.

After the meeting Ms Bardell condemned the retailer for cutting the pay of workers who had delivered vital supplies throughout the pandemic when the company’s profits were going up.

Now she says she has evidence some the claims made at the meeting appear not to square with the facts.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

She said Tesco partially attributed the decision on removing the “retained pay” element of workers’ salaries to an incompatible payroll system, claiming the system made it difficult to process the money.

Ms Bardell said she had written to the payroll company in question, who told her: “To date Tesco has not raised with us any concerns with respect to the payroll system and its ability to support Tesco’s business requirements.”

She said: “Tesco are making unsubstantiated claims against their payroll system company, risking them reputational damage. It is a poor excuse for a very deliberate decision to revoke previously negotiated pay from workers who have fed the nation throughout the pandemic.”

The pay top-up was introduced about 10 years ago as an incentive to retain staff. Those who receive it were told they would keep it as long as they stayed in the same roles.

Retail trade union Usdaw was awarded an interdict in the Court of Session in Edinburgh against the company’s pay cut plans, meaning a temporary halt to the move at the Livingston site.

Tesco declined to comment on what was said at the meeting but claimed “simplifying terms to support the transition to the payroll system” was one factor though not the principal reason for the change.

The company has previously said it had decided to phase out the payment because most of its 16,000 employees working in distribution did not receive it.