Tesco shop staff say they missed out on a cash or voucher bonus this Christmas for the second year in a row – with some receiving just a box of Quality Street.
The UK’s biggest supermarket chain paid a 10% Christmas bonus in 2020 and in previous years has given out a shopping voucher, but this year the only thing handed out was the plastic tub of confectionery worth £5 that some staff received.
Tesco said it had doubled the staff discount to 20% on certain days during the run-up to Christmas instead of offering vouchers or a cash bonus.
One worker told the Guardian it was the second year in a row he had received only Quality Street, given at the discretion of his store manager, despite his store taking more than £10m in December. “They’re certainly penny-pinching and trying to drive costs down,” he said.
In the group’s 2022 annual report, Tesco noted that it agreed with unions representing shopfloor staff in 2019 that a regular annual cash bonus, previously paid in March, would be ditched in return for a higher rate of basic pay.
From July this year, it promised to invest £200m in increasing its rate of pay for shopfloor staff to a minimum of £10.10. It upped the rate again in October to a minimum of £10.30, taking their total pay rise last year to 8%.
The supermarket chain said special bonuses were given to shopfloor workers in April, May and June 2020 at the height of the pandemic in the UK when stores were very busy, and for December 2020 to “recognise their exceptional effort during the peak Christmas trading period”.
In June 2021, Tesco paid a 2% “recognition bonus” and paid another – worth 1.25% of pay – in May last year.
The measly Christmas reward for store workers this year comes despite what is thought to have been a bumper festive period for supermarkets including Tesco, as many people opted to save money by entertaining at home rather than visiting restaurants and bars.
Tesco will not report its festive trading figures until next week, but data from the industry analyst Kantar suggests sales rose by 6% in the 12 weeks to 25 December.
However, sales growth is expected to have been led by high food price inflation rather than shoppers putting more items in their baskets. Supermarket profits are likely to have been hit by being unable to pass on the full effect from the rise in the cost of ingredients, energy and labour on to shoppers amidcompetition for their custom.
The chief executive of Tesco, Ken Murphy, was paid £4.75m last year including a £3.21m bonus, while the chief finance officer, Imran Nawaz, earned a £1.24m bonus – taking his total to £5.4m for the year, including a £3.5m “golden hello” relating to bonuses he lost out on in leaving his former employer Tate & Lyle.
The payouts came as Tesco’s pre-tax profits more than doubled after pandemic restrictions eased.
Murphy, who joined the UK’s biggest supermarket chain in October 2020, could earn up to £10.7m this year if he meets certain performance targets.
Tesco said: “We have never given a regular cash bonus at Christmas and it is wrong to suggest that we have replaced one with chocolates.
“To help colleagues with their Christmas shopping this year, we doubled our colleague discount to 20% in the run-up to Christmas – one of many benefits available to our colleagues, on top of the near 8% increase in base pay we invested over last year.”