Asda plans put more than 1,000 store and staff canteen jobs at risk


Asda is considering cutting more than 1,000 store jobs under plans to close hundreds of staff canteens and shopfloor services such as photo processing units, reports The Guardian.

Managers are understood to have met with union representatives on Wednesday to discuss 4,000 other job moves or changes in stores. The cuts come after Asda revealed plans to axe about 200 jobs at its head office in Leeds earlier this week.

Sources said Asda has also given a further 800 or more staff in Leeds and at the headquarters of its George clothing brand in Leicester until Friday to decide if they want to move into new roles as the whole business is streamlined.

In the latest round of cutbacks, Asda is considering scrapping canteens which operate in 350 of its 620 stores and eliminating the morning perk of free tea and toast that is handed out to staff in a further 230 outlets.

Vending machines in stores may also be under threat, but Asda said it would provide hot drinks machines, fridges and microwaves so that staff can prepare their own food if it goes ahead with closing canteens.

The company is also looking at closing or selling off photo-developing services, cutting pharmacy opening hours and reducing customer services, including fresh pizza making and George clothing advice, in an attempt to reduce staff numbers. However, some staff are expected to be redeployed to provide better service in the stores’ core departments, such as fresh groceries.

Asda said its intention was to prioritise redeployment over redundancy.

An Asda spokesperson said: “2015 was a tough year for UK supermarkets and Asda is no exception. The structure of UK grocery retailing has permanently changed to reflect the way that customers shop today. We know our customers better than anyone else and we need to make sure that our offer meets their changing needs.

“We have entered into a [45-day] consultation with our store colleagues on proposals which we believe will enable us to react more quickly by becoming a leaner and more agile business. These proposals are designed to make our stores easier to shop in and be more effective in delivering the low prices, quality and good value which customers tell us they want.”

Asda is battling against the rise of discounters Aldi and Lidl which have undermined its position as the UK’s cheapest supermarket. Andy Clarke, its chief executive, has said he wants to halve the price gap with the German chains to 5 per cent over the next two years under his Project Renewal scheme.

The Walmart-owned chain has yet to reveal how it performed over Christmas, but data from Kantar Worldpanel last week suggested sales slumped 3.5% in the 12 weeks to 3 January, reducing the grocer’s share of the market by 0.6 percentage points to 16.2 per cent.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons all performed better than expected, while discounters Aldi and Lidl achieved double-digit sales increases.

The latest staff cutbacks come only about 18 months after Asda cut 1,360 middle management jobs in stores, redeploying staff into fast-growing online shopping jobs, part of its attempt to take out £1bn in costs within five years.

The proposal to cut staff canteens follows the retailer reducing staff catering facilities across 200 branches less than two years ago. About 350 of the supermarket’s stores currently serve hot breakfasts in staff canteens, while free tea and toast is available in a further 230 supermarkets and Asda Living stores.

Asda said it would make fridges and microwaves available for store staff to bring in and prepare their own food and provide hot drink vending machines if it went ahead with closing staff canteens.

A spokesperson said: “To deliver the low prices, quality and good value which customers tell us they want it is necessary to look at the way we operate our business and we are reviewing the viability of providing canteens in our stores. This is not a final decision, we are currently in consultation with our colleagues.”