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Supermarket Sector: Employment Contract Terms and Conditions

Volume 659: debated on Tuesday 30 April 2019

9. What recent representations his Department has received on proposed changes to employment contract terms and conditions in the supermarket sector. (910599)

I regularly meet representatives of the supermarket sector, both individually and through the Retail Sector Council, to discuss a range of issues. One issue that the council has identified as a priority is employment. The Government have committed themselves to upgrading workers’ rights and protecting the most vulnerable workers in all sectors through the good work plan. That represents the biggest upgrade of workers’ rights for over 20 years.

I apologise for arriving late, Mr Speaker. I am delighted to have the opportunity to ask the Minister to support Mrs A, who has worked for Asda for 30 years. Her take-home pay, and that of 3,000 other members of staff, will be cut because of changes in the pay structure masquerading as an hourly increase. Paid breaks will be reduced, the night shift will be changed, and bonuses will be slashed. Will the Minister join me in supporting Mrs A and ensuring that she keeps what she is earning now?

The hon. Lady was not late for her own question. Her principal responsibility is to be in her place to ask her question, and we are delighted to see her. She does not need to be too apologetic; in fact, she does not need to be apologetic at all.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise those questions. She is a strong campaigner for workers in her constituency, and we have met on a number of occasions to discuss some of the issues involved. Obviously we want Asda employees to receive the remuneration to which they are entitled. It is true that a consultation is taking place on changes that may be introduced towards the end of the year, but, in general, terms and conditions are subject to negotiation between the employer and the employee. While it is always open to either party to enter into negotiations on the terms of contracts, if employees are subject to changes in terms to which they have not agreed, they can take legal action.

The Minister is right to champion workers’ rights, because ours is the party of the workers. However, there are still too many examples of employers not paying the national living wage. What further steps will the Government take to ensure that the national living wage is enforced and workers receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue. He is right: we are the party of the workers, which is why we introduced the good work plan, the biggest reform of workers’ rights for 20 years. We are committed to enforcing the national minimum wage and ensuring that people receive the remuneration that they deserve. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has identified £24.4 million of arrears that affected more than 200,000 workers last year, which was an increase on the previous year. We have almost doubled the budget for enforcement since 2015, and we remain committed to ensuring that people receive the national minimum wage when they are entitled to it.