Citizens UK released figures showing how many supermarket workers receive less than the voluntary rate (Image: Getty Images)

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Hundreds of thousands of supermarket workers earn less than the Real Living Wage – despite stores enjoying huge business during the coronavirus pandemic, campaigners reveal today.

Some 410,000 supermarket staff – 45% – are paid below the voluntary level of £9.50 an hour and £10.85 in London which the Living Wage Foundation says is needed to cover costs, according to the Citizens UK grassroots organisation.

The current National Living Wage – the legal minimum – is just £8.72 an hour, falling to £8.20 for those aged between 21 and 24, and just £6.45 for those aged 18 to 20.

Citizens UK executive director Matthew Bolton said: “Whilst some employers are really struggling, supermarkets are experiencing bumper sales – yet not a single major supermarket pays all staff and contractors the (Real) Living Wage.

Citizens UK executive director Matthew Bolton

Shoppers have still flocked to supermarkets during the pandemic
(Image: Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“It is unacceptable.”

Fair pay campaigners pointed to the gulf in wages between ordinary workers and company bosses.

They called on industry chiefs to sign-up to the Living Wage Foundation and pay employees its independently-calculated rate, which applies to all age groups.

High Pay Centre executive director Luke Hildyard said: “Market forces might suggest that the going rate for CEOs runs into millions of pounds, while for supermarket workers it isn't enough for them to live on, but when this seems so at odds with people's sense of fairness and the interests of society as a whole, we should question if it should be the only determinant of pay levels."

Labour and the shop workers' union Usdaw called for an hourly rate of “at least £10 an hour”.

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said: "Every worker should be paid a fair wage they can live on.

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband
(Image: PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

Campaigners want a pay rise for staff

“It's just wrong that so many of our key workers, including in sectors like supermarkets and care, are being asked to survive on low pay.

"Labour strongly supports a Real Living Wage of at least £10 an hour.

“As we rebuild our country and economy after coronavirus, we cannot just go back to business as usual.

"We owe the workers of our country an obligation to enable them to be paid a wage they can live and bring up their family on."

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “Millions of low-paid workers have provided essential services to help ensure the country is fed, healthy and safe through the pandemic and will continue to do so.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis
(Image: Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror)

“Usdaw members employed in our supermarkets, distribution warehouses, food processing sites and home delivery operations welcomed the key worker status, but that respect and appreciation must not fade into the background when this national crisis passes.

“There needs to be lasting and fundamental changes to the way society views our lowest paid workers.

“We need a new deal for the workers – a minimum wage of at least £10 per hour, an end to insecure employment, respect for shop workers and action to ensure that retail jobs are no longer underpaid and undervalued.

“Going to work should mean a decent standard of living for all workers.”

The British Retail Consortium's director of business and regulation, Tom Ironside, said:​ ​“In recent years retailers have worked hard to increase pay, with many going beyond the legal requirement and extending the National Living Wage rate to staff aged under 23.

“Any increases to the National Living Wage should be managed in a moderate and sustainable way – aligned with predicted wage growth and ahead of expected price increases – in order to improve the lives of retail workers without threatening jobs.”