More than 300 jobs at Asda are at risk and 4,300 staff will receive a pay cut after the supermarket announced a swathe of changes to night shifts, Post Office outlets and pharmacies to cut costs.
The supermarket chain said 211 night shift manager roles were going and a further 4,137 staff would lose out on premiums of at least £2.52 an hour for working nights as it switched the restocking of packaged groceries and frozen food to daytimes and evenings.
In addition, Asda planned to close seven of its 254 in-store pharmacies, putting 62 jobs at risk, including 14 pharmacists.
Twenty-three management roles were under threat and another 200 staff would have their working hours reduced as the retailer planned a 22% reduction in colleague hours across all 23 of its in-store Post Offices, with four reducing their opening hours by about 9%. Asda said the move was down to “a decline in the number of customers using this service”.
The shake-up comes as the big supermarkets look for ways to cut costs amid rising inflation on food, energy and labour as well as competition from fast-expanding discounters Aldi and Lidl.
Asda, the UK’s third biggest supermarket, has made a number of moves to cut costs, including reducing premiums for delivery drivers in the autumn. It has been singled out as the lowest payer for hourly paid staff among the big supermarket chains.
The group, which was bought out by the billionaire Issa brothers and the private equity firm TDR Capital for almost £7bn in 2020, is thought to be considering a merger with the siblings’ petrol forecourt empire EG Group to try to reduce its debt burden.
The retailer performed relatively well in the run-up to Christmas, according to the latest industry data from analysts at Kantar, which indicated sales rose by 6.4% in the 12 weeks to 25 December, a bigger increase than recorded at Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons but well behind Aldi and Lidl.
New own-label budget groceries and the introduction of takeaway food concessions are thought to have helped trade.
Ken Towle, Asda’s retail director, said: “The retail sector is evolving at pace and it is vital we review 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 and grow our business.
“We are now entering a period of consultation with our colleagues on these proposals. We recognise this will be a difficult time for them and will do all we can to support them through this process.”