Tesco starts laying off army of temporary workers

A grocery store distancing floor sign. Photo: Lorna Roberts
Tesco stockpiled temporary workers at the height of the coronavirus crisis, but are now letting some of them go again, The Telegraph reports. Photo: Lorna Roberts
By Reidar Molthe

28 April 2020 13:49

Tesco starts laying off army of temporary workers

Britain's biggest supermarket hired 45,000 extra workers at the height of the crisis but is letting some go earlier than planned.

Tesco has started laying off the first wave of the 45,000 temporary workers it hired at the height of the coronavirus crisis, writes Laura Onita in The Telegraph, a newspaper.

In one store, 80pc of the new staff were given seven days' notice on Saturday as thousands of newly created roles face the axe. Some staff argue that the cuts are arbitrary. One employee, who worked in a restaurant in Gloucestershire before the outbreak took hold, was told the job at Tesco would be for 12 weeks.

“I worked hard for six weeks, but it did not matter. I have three children to look after and a family. To suddenly have that taken away from you early was a shock. Tesco do have to cut jobs, I get that. But it feels like they have no guidance who to get rid of.”

Hiring spree

The supermarket chain, alongside all the major grocers, embarked on a hiring spree to cope with demand. It employed shop floor staff, drivers and warehouse workers as shoppers descended on supermarkets to buy pasta, tinned goods and lavatory rolls.

As the nation went into lockdown Tesco's home delivery service was also overwhelmed, with chief executive Dave Lewis asking customers to shop in store if possible. Now that the initial stockpiling craze has calmed down Tesco and other supermarket chains will need fewer staff in both stores and depots.

Social distancing measures have also meant that the volume of people coming into stores is more controlled, putting less pressure on its supply chain.

Dividend payout

This month, Tesco was criticized for pressing ahead with a £635m dividend payout because it benefits from a business rates holiday granted to all retailers, while being among a handful allowed to keep trading.

A Tesco spokesperson said its temporary workforce had played a crucial role in keeping the nation fed.

“As many of our colleagues return to work and demand returns to more normal levels, we will begin to reduce the number of temporary workers across our stores,” she said.

Tesco calculated that if restrictions such as social distancing measures continue long-term the expense to its stores will go up from £100m to £200m. The bulk of those costs are mostly down to having had to hire extra staff.

The business is determined to keep a lid on costs; profit margins in the grocery arena are wafer-thin, concludes The Telegraph.

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