Trade union officials have expressed hope that jobs losses at beleaguered retail chain Wilko can be minimised after initial fears that thousands will be made redundant.
GMB officials said that after meeting with Wilko bosses yesterday, they were now hopeful job losses at the discount homewares retailer can be “reduced significantly from the thousands initially feared”.
Last week, Wilko commenced a redundancy consultation period with 3900 staff about a new management structure – just weeks after it recorded a massive 80 per cent drop in full-year profits, which it attributed to the “unilateral imposition” of the national living wage, and the weak sterling and soaring inflation causing an increase in import costs.
Wilko, which has 400 stores across the UK, said that following a review of its operating functions, the changes were required to “ensure it is best placed to continue to thrive within an ever-changing retail landscape”.
The retailer added that 1000 new senior supervisor roles will be created as part of the restructure, as well as a “significant amount” of customer service roles.
After yesterday’s meeting, GMB national officer Gary Carter said: “This was the first of many discussions we will have with the company during the 60-day consultation.
“We will be having further, difficult conversations during the process.
“We’ve had people on the phone to us in tears – people who have been with the company 20 or 30 years.
“We all want to see Wilko as a thriving, sustainable business with a long term future.
“It is vital GMB helps the company keep any job losses to an absolute minimum.
“It is important to ensure adequate staffing levels in their stores to maintain an acceptable level of customer service – and to make sure Wilko staff are paid the living wage.
“We are encouraging Wilko to look at alternative ways to save money, which protect existing job roles.
“It’s a hazy picture at the moment, but we will be looking at each store individually with Wilko.
“There are going to be redundancies, but we are very confident these can be reduced significantly from the thousands initially feared.”
Wilko is not the only large retailer which has suffered from post-Brexit referendum turmoil.
Earlier this year Tesco said it would axe 1200 jobs at its head office as part of a major cost-cutting drive.
And just days before Wilko’s redundancies announcement last week, Sainsbury’s and Asda confirmed cost-cutting plans that could more than a thousand jobs on the line in their respective businesses.