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Tesco employees plan to resort to legal action against the UK supermarket chain for alleged age and gender discrimination after it reduced the rates of wages for night and weekend shifts.

The legal action is being taken by a group of 17 employees, who have been working at the company since 1999, reported The Guardian.

Law firm Leigh Day will be representing the employees' case at court.

According to the firm, up to 38,000 employees could be affected by Tesco's reduced rates.

"There seems to be a growing trend amongst retailers to cut staff wages and use those savings across other areas of the business."

In February, Tesco announced its plan to make changes in pay rates in consultation with the Usdaw trade union and staff representatives.

Although the supermarket chain said a 3.1% pay rise to £7.62 an hour made it one of the highest wage payers in the retail sector, employees who used to receive double pay for Sunday or bank holidays saw their wages reduced, reported the publication. 

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Leigh Day’s employment and discrimination department executive Paula Lee was quoted by the publication as saying: “The decision to impose pay cuts on long-serving employees is a bitter pill for our clients to swallow and we believe it is discriminatory. There seems to be a growing trend amongst retailers to cut staff wages and use those savings across other areas of the business.

“It is the longer-serving staff in these retail organisations who usually suffer. Understandably, our clients feel their loyalty is being taken advantage of; that the employer knows they are unlikely to leave their jobs and, in turn, that makes them feel vulnerable to further ‘no choice’ pay cuts.”

Tesco spokesperson was quoted by the publication as saying: “Earlier this year, we announced a pay increase of up to 3.1% for colleagues working in our stores across the UK, in addition to a 5% turnaround bonus.

"As part of the pay negotiations, we also agreed to simplify premium payments to ensure a fair and consistent approach for all colleagues. The minority of colleagues who were negatively impacted by this change were supported with an agreed lump sum transition payment.”

The law firm is also representing employees in discrimination claims against other supermarket chains such as Asda and Sainsbury’s.

Image: Tesco store at Kingston Park, UK.  Photo: courtesy of Mankind 2k via Wikipedia.