Britain's Morrisons breaks 10-pounds-an-hour store staff pay barrier

LONDON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Morrisons on Wednesday said it will become the first British supermarket group to pay all its store staff at least 10 pounds ($13.62) an hour.

The company, based in Bradford, northern England, said a new pay deal starting in April will mean a 9% wage increase for the majority of its 96,000 store workers.

Supermarket staff have played a major role in feeding the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic and have been designated “key workers” by government.

Morrisons Chief Executive David Potts said the 10 pounds rate was a “symbolic and important milestone”.

“Over the last year we have seen renewed and widespread appreciation in the UK for our colleagues who have had an incredibly tough 2020, working tirelessly so Britain could eat well and shop safely throughout the pandemic,” he said.

The deal, which rolls the annual budget for a discretionary bonus scheme into the hourly rate, is subject to a ballot opening on Jan. 27. The deal is backed by the leadership of the Usdaw trade union.

Morrisons, Britain’s fourth largest grocer after market leader Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda, said its minimum hourly pay currently stands at 9.20 pounds an hour.

It said the new deal means that since 2015, Morrisons’ pay has increased by over 46%.

In addition to the hourly pay increase, the group will pay a London weighting.

British supermarkets’ sales have soared during the pandemic as the hospitality sector has been largely closed but the crisis has brought hundreds of millions of pounds of additional costs.

Last week Morrisons, which trades from 498 UK stores, reported strong sales over the Christmas period.

$1 = 0.7342 pounds Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky