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Shares bonanza coincides with end of sick pay for some staff
Terry Macalister Tuesday May 18, 2004 The Guardian
The board of Tesco, led by chief executive Sir Terry Leahy, is to share in an ?11m bonus and share bonanza - just as the supermarket chain has removed staff's sick pay for the first three days in some stores. The lavish rewards coincide with the GMB union releasing figures which it says show that Tesco workers would have to work 79 hours a week to achieve the national average wage.
The company defended its decision to start a trial in 20 stores around Britain whereby sick pay would not be given to staff, saying it needed to tackle "unplanned" absenteeism.
"If someone forgets it's their son's sports day then they could be tempted to throw a sickie and not come into work, which puts strains on other staff," said a Tesco spokesman. "My understanding is that this scheme we are trialling is not unusual in other retailers."
In two other projects running for 12 months, Tesco is offering three days' extra holiday or vouchers to employees who do not take any time off sick for a year.
Sir Terry himself won short- and long-term share awards of ?2m during 2003, and his annual salary and benefits package rose nearly 5% to ?3m, according to the company's annual report, out yesterday.
The new non-executive chairman, David Reid, who resigned as an executive director in December, received short- and long-term share awards totalling ?1.9m. His total package was up 4.4% to ?2.7m.
The company, which announced record annual profits last month of ?1.6bn, said all 160,000 employees would share in a ?196m payout of incentive bonuses and shares.
The shop workers' union, Usdaw, said it was happy to go along with trials where staff were allowed to volunteer, but it would oppose any attempt to implement such a strategy without consent. Other unions said they were astonished at the Usdaw cooperation, and questioned whether it was linked to the fact that almost half of Usdaw's membership worked at Tesco, leaving it vulnerable to employer pressure.
Tesco confirmed there was no plan to end sick pay at its head office, in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire.
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