Supermarket bosses are being urged to work with trade unions to protect jobs in light of tough trading conditions and sweeping cuts across the sector.
Unite union has written a letter to the bosses of nine supermarket chains in the UK and Ireland, including Asda, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons, to request personal meetings “to explore more constructive avenues to secure jobs.”
Union representatives from the distribution and retail sectors will hold a summit in Salford later today (May 14) to discuss the current situation and formulate plans aimed at increasing the pressure on retailers to enter talks.
It comes just weeks after Tesco reported a record £6.4bn loss, as group trading profit plummeted 58.2% to £1.4bn.
Other retailers addressed in the letter include Co-operative Food, Musgrave Retail Partners which operates Budgens, Spar and BWG Foods in Ireland.
Unite national officers for retail distribution Adrian Jones and Matt Draper and national officer for food Julia Long said: “Our members have become increasingly concerned over threats to their terms and conditions and job security.
“We have therefore taken the unusual step of writing to all of the major grocery retailers in the country to try to establish a common view on securing a future for all.”
Earlier this month Sainsbury’s reported in its full year results to March 14 that during the period it had restructured its store support centres to “improve efficiencies” and cut job roles by 500. Last month, it also announced it would be structuring stores to improve efficiency and customer service, which it expects will result in around 800 fewer roles. Reports have also suggested that Tesco could be looking to cut as many as 10,000 jobs, but the retailer has not confirmed or released a number.
Unite has claimed Morrison’s employed 128,000 in 2012, a number that dropped to 119,000 two years later. It added that the defined pension schemes and benefits of workers are also being “severely pruned” at Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
The letter from Unite continues: “We are very conscious of the trading position many retailers are currently facing but we do not agree that the only way to move forward is by decisions to close stores, attack pensions and lay off workers.
“We have worked with employers for many years across the entire retail sector and hope that the progress that has been made in trying to establish a healthy and constructive relationship will not be lost in the race to protect profits.
“We believe that there may be an alternative way to turn around the fortunes in retail that does not put our members’ jobs and terms and conditions at risk.
“The success of any company when faced with challenges relies as much on the shop floor workers as it does on the executives and money men.”