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Asda staff at 18 underperforming stores are at risk of losing their jobs or face cuts in working hours. Photograph: David Levenson/Alamy

Thousands of Asda workers face redundancy or reduced hours

WT24 Desk

Thousands of Asda workers are facing redundancy or a dramatic cut in their working hours as Britain’s third-largest supermarket chain looks to cut costs, The Guardian reports.

Asda has begun a consultation with 3,257 employees in 18 under-performing stores, singled out as overstaffed relative to their current sales performance.

The GMB union said it had been contacted by worried Asda workers “fearing for their jobs” after new business plans were shared with store managers that included a substantial reduction in staff hours worked.

The 18 stores are dotted around England and include branches in Halifax in West Yorkshire, Broadstairs in Kent and the Basildon Eastgate store in Essex. Staff will face a series of one-to-one meetings over the next three weeks. The eventual job-loss figure is expected to be in the hundreds.

Last week Asda posted its worst annual figures since being taken over by Walmart, as fierce competition in the UK supermarket sector took its toll. The supermarket chain admitted its performance was “behind expectations” after pre-tax profit for 2016 fell 19% to £791.7m. Accounts filed at Companies House also showed sales fell to £21.6bn from £22.3bn, as shoppers flocked to cheaper rivals.

The supermarket industry is going through massive change as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are forced to cut costs to respond to the threat posed by the fast-growing discounters Aldi and Lidl, as well as grocery sales moving online.

Tesco is getting rid of 2,300 staff this year as part of a cost-cutting programme that is hitting head office workers as well as staff based at its Cardiff call centre – due to close early next year. At the weekend it was revealed that Sainsbury’s plans to cut 1,000 head office jobs.

In recent years Asda has trailed behind Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, and is the worst-performing member of the “big four”. The former chief executive Andy Clarke was replaced by Sean Clarke last summer. The Walmart veteran was tasked with turning the retailer’s performance around. He has focused on dropping prices, boosting the quality of food ranges and improving customer service.

Last year Asda cut 750 jobs at its Leeds head office and in store. The process saw the closure of staff canteens in all stores and an end to shop-floor services such as photo-processing and pizza-making.

“We are currently in discussions with a number of our stores about changes that are needed to the number of hours required to run that store for our customers,” said an Asda spokesman. “It is common practice for a supermarket to need to make changes to hours based on the changing shopping habits of customers. We understand that any conversations about change are unsettling but it is always our upmost priority to find alternative roles or working patterns for impacted colleagues.”

The stores affected are as follows: Arnold, Nottinghamshire; Boston, Lincolnshire; Broadstairs; Burnden Park, Bolton; Crewe; Basildon Eastgate; Eastleigh; Halifax; Harpurhey, Manchester; Mansfield; Minworth, near Birmingham; Norwich (Old Store); Oadby, near Leicester; Radcliffe, near Bury; Sinfin, Derby; Spennymoor, Co Durham; Thurmaston in Leicestershire; and West Bridgford in Nottinghamshire.

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