Tesco has issued a robust response to a petition by staff accusing it of cutting benefits in order to pay for the national living wage.

Tesco today issued a statement saying allegations that it was cutting staff benefits such as double pay on Sundays to fund the costs of the national living wage were untrue.

The petition, started on Change.com by a Tesco customer assistant, will be personally delivered to Tesco boss Dave Lewis.

“I am dismayed at the recent announcement of the upcoming pay review. These changes will impact on colleagues’ basic pay.

“Staff who have worked for the company since before 1999 will have their Sunday premiums cut from double time to time and a half. Some night workers who are contracted to Saturday and Sunday nights are set to lose thousands of pounds a year.

“Tesco should not be allowed to take money out of people’s every day wages to fund a pay rise for ‘some’ colleagues. If they have to reduce wages then it should be done over a longer period of time, giving colleagues five months’ notice that they will be thousands of pounds a year worse off is quite frankly disgraceful.

“I hope with the support of others by signing this petition we can get Tesco and Dave Lewis to reconsider these sweeping pay cuts and not treat loyal staff as if they are not important to the company. Hopefully treating loyal staff in such a negative manner won’t impact on their daily business.”

It has attracted nearly 65,000 signatures in about one week. 

From July 3 Tesco will pay all workers time and a half, rather than paying long-serving workers double and less long-serving staff time and a half, for working on Sundays and bank holidays.

It will also redefine overnight shifts from 10pm to 6am to midnight to 6am. Night premiums will also be standardised, with workers receiving a premium of £2.21 an hour.

Tesco responded today, saying: “Recently we’ve seen commentary on pay for hourly paid colleagues in the UK, which has wrongly suggested that the pay deal was done so that Tesco could meet the new national living wage. This is simply not the case.

“Our pay and benefits package for all colleagues was already above the living wage and it’s our commitment to pay colleagues at Tesco in the top 25% of their peer group.”

It continues, saying it has worked in partnership with shop workers union USDAW to develop its 2016/17 pay rise of 3.1% from July 3.

It adds: “While over 85% of colleagues will be better off, we recognise that some colleagues will be impacted in different ways. That’s why we’re supporting colleagues who see a net reduction in their take home pay with a lump sum payment worth 18 months of the difference.

“We are investing £317m more in pay and benefits this year and reinvesting a further £38m from our payroll, ensuring that we not only continue to offer one of the highest pay and benefits packages in retail, but one that is fair to all colleagues.”

Other retailers to see challenges from their staff over the living wage include B&Q, which was also petitioned by a staff member.