Sainsbury drivers protest over pension changes

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Protestors will delay the start of their shifts over s 24-hour period
Protestors will delay the start of their shifts over s 24-hour period

Related tags Pension scheme Salary pension scheme Pension

Nearly 200 Sainsbury drivers will cause “substantial” disruption today (June 20), when they walk out on their Merseyside distribution centre in a pension row that could cost them tens of thousands of pounds, claims Unite the union.

The furious drivers will walk out for two hours over the supermarket’s decision to close its final salary scheme in September 2013, which was replaced by what was said to be an unfair savings plan, said Unite.

Unite national officer for road transport Matt Draper said Sainsbury had said it wanted to change the pension scheme because it wanted a fairer scheme for all. “But the new scheme creates further division as management grades are able to enjoy better contributions from the company.”

As a result, the lower-paid and longer-serving drivers had seen their plans for retirement thrown into disarray, claimed Draper.

Same pension to everyone

But a spokeswoman for Sainsbury told that the company wanted to offer the same type of pension to everyone working at Sainsbury.

“Over 100,000 people participate in our defined contribution pension, which we enhanced as part of the changes,” ​said the spokeswoman.

“The remaining 9% of our colleagues who were in a defined benefit scheme have been transferred to this defined contribution scheme. This followed extensive consultation and we re-shaped our initial proposals to reflect some of the feedback.

“All pension benefits are being protected and the changes have been applied consistently across all colleagues, including managers.”

Sainsbury has a pre-tax profit of £898M for the year ending March 15, said Draper, and could not defend making lower pension contributions to its workforce.

Compensation should also be given to the drivers who lost out when the final salary pension scheme closed, he argued.

‘Ripped away from them’

“Our members are furious that their potential retirement income has been ripped away from them by a retail giant that is coining in massive profits,” ​he added.

Sainsbury was urged to negotiate with Unite so that its members could have a pension scheme with the same company contributions as managers.

We want to end this ‘them and us’ attitude to pension provision,” ​added Draper.

A total of 197 drivers are taking action and delaying starting their shifts by two hours at the Haydock site on Merseyside.

Meanwhile, anger over the pension scheme has spread to 1,700 drivers and warehouse staff at a further five Sainsbury distribution centres.

Drivers and staff at Basingstoke, Elstree, Hams Hall, Rye Park and Waltham Point will all be balloted on pension action shortly, said Draper.

Last week, former Tesco drivers staged a protest at an unfair dismissals​ hearing in Sheffield in a row with distribution firm Eddie Stobart.

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