The owners of Asda have disclosed a planned restructuring that will result in thousands of employees being transferred to lower-paying positions and put hundreds of jobs at jeopardy.
The GMB union harshly criticised the modifications made by the third-largest grocery chain by in the UK, claiming they were the product of an “efficiency” drive.
The business wants to move some midnight restocking shifts from 184 locations to the daytime, which may jeopardise 211 night shift manager positions.
Just over 4,000 hourly-paid employees will also be impacted by the changes, according to Asda, since their shift schedules will shift to the daytime. As a result, they will no longer receive the night shift pay premium of at least £2.52 per hour for restocking items including frozen food, tins and pasta.
Additionally, the proposals call for a 25% reduction in the opening hours of 23 in-store Post Office branches and the closure of seven in-store pharmacies, which employ 14 pharmacists and 48 other staff members.
The reorganisation takes place as discounters Aldi and Lidl continue to eat away at the client bases of the big grocers amid the cost of living crisis, putting pressure on supermarket profitability.
The sector signalled last year that the days of competing for customers by providing loss-leading fuel offerings were over. Value ranges and necessities have now become the major battleground.
“The retail industry is evolving at a pace, and it is crucial we assess changing customer preferences, along with our own ways of working, to ensure we are operating as efficiently as possible so that we can continue to invest in and grow our business,” said Ken Towle, director of retail for Asda.
“On these recommendations, we are now starting a period of engagement with our colleagues. We understand that this will be a trying moment for them, and we’ll do everything we can to help them get through it.”
The GMB union, which is concerned that more than 4,000 jobs might actually be lost, announced that its representatives will be gathering later on Thursday to deliberate its response but warned that a struggle was approaching.
“The long term impact of this on low-paid retail colleagues is that a night colleague on 30 hours stands to lose in the range of £300 to £400 a month, during a cost-of-living crisis,” said national officer Nadine Houghton.
“For this reason, we anticipate the measures to lead to severe employment losses,” she continued.
GMB is also worried that the measures won’t actually work since there won’t be enough time to restock the shop floor.
The union has been extremely critical of Asda’s owners since their debt-fueled takeover in 2021, notably on the salary problem.
Asda and the petrol forecourts company EG Group, which is also owned by Zuber and Mohsin Issa and the London-based private equity firm TDR Capital, were reportedly in talks to merge last week, according to media reports.
Regulatory approval is required for such a merger, which would create a retail behemoth with more than 580 supermarkets, 700 gas stations and 100 convenience stores in the UK.