The low paid are disproportionately impacted by a rise in the cost of living.
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A coalition of 15 major investors managing 2.4 trillion pounds ($3 trillion) will use this year's shareholder meeting season to press some of Britain's biggest listed employers to protect their lowest-paid workers during the cost-of-living crisis.
Responsible investment group ShareAction, which brought the group together, said on Friday investors including Britain's biggest asset manager Legal and General Investment Management, Aviva Investors, AXA Investment Managers and Nest have all signed a statement urging businesses to ensure the lowest-paid workers are adequately targeted in pay awards that meet the current rate of inflation.
British inflation rose to 10.4% in February, though the Bank of England has forecast it will drop to below 4% by the end of the year.
The coalition wants businesses to commit on a long-term basis to paying the so-called real Living Wage to all employees across supply chains, including third-party contracted staff. It also wants businesses to provide guaranteed working hours and fair and accurate contracts.
The real Living Wage was established by the Living Wage Foundation charity and independently calculated by the Resolution Foundation think tank to determine how much workers and their families need to live.
Currently, it is 11.95 pounds per hour in London and 10.90 pounds in the rest of the United Kingdom - higher than Britain's main government-mandated minimum wage (National Living Wage) rate of 10.42 pounds per hour.
ShareAction said it will attend the annual general meetings (AGMs) of companies including supermarket groups Tesco and Sainsbury's and fashion retailers Next and JD Sports on behalf of the coalition to push the firms to address inequality through fair pay policies.
"As investors we must play our part in holding companies to account where short-termism exacerbates long-term systemic risks such as inequality," Vaidahee Sachdev, senior impact analyst at Aviva Investors said.
A spokesperson for Tesco declined to comment. However, the retailer has increased pay for store staff by more than 15% over the last 10 months, increased the range of free products offered and raised staff discounts.
A Next spokesperson said the group had provided employees with a range of support measures during the cost-of-living crisis, including access to additional hours.
Sainsbury's and JD Sports declined to comment.
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Hugh Lawson)