Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, Lloyds Bank and Caterpillar has each announced significant further job losses in the past 48 hours.
Sainsbury’s is set to shed 3,500 jobs as it permanently closes all its meat, fish and deli counters and closes 420 Argos stores.
Overall, however, by March 2021 the retailer will have boosted its number of workers by 6,000.
The retailer’s H1 2020-21 report showed that despite a pre-tax loss of £137m in the six months to 19 September from a £9m profit in the same period last year Sainsbury’s said it would pay out £232m in dividends, similar to the figures paid out by Morrisons and Tesco in the face of losses.
Impact of Covid-19 on jobs
Sainsbury’s total retail sales, excluding fuel, increased by 7.1%. Digital sales surged by 117%, and that accounted for nearly 40% of group sales.
The company said it would continue to integrate Argos into its model and aims to have 240 Argos outlets and 150-200 Argos collection points in Sainsbury’s stores by next summer. Analysts have said this would help the process of transforming it into a general retailer rather than primarily a grocer.
The 420 standalone Argos stores will be closed by March 2024, but 100 will remain.
“We are talking to colleagues today about where the changes we are announcing in Argos standalone stores and food counters impact their roles,” said Simon Roberts, Sainsbury’s chief executive.
“We will work really hard to find alternative roles for as many of these colleagues as possible and expect to be able to offer alternative roles for the majority of impacted colleagues.”
On Wednesday, John Lewis and Lloyds Banking Group said they were cutting a combined further 2,500 jobs.
The John Lewis Partnership is cutting a further 1,500 jobs through a shake-up of its head office functions to save cash as the coronavirus crisis continues to take a toll on sales.
The employee-owned retailer had already shed 1,390 roles in the wake of pandemic disruption this year that saw eight underperforming John Lewis department stores and four Waitrose supermarket sites closed down.
It said its latest wave of cuts would remove layers of back-office functions and remove duplication across its brands.
The staff affected by the redundancies were informed during calls with line managers yesterday.
The partnership said that in addition to “market-leading” redundancy terms, those with at least two years’ service would also secure up to £3,000 for retraining purposes.
Meanwhile, Lloyds is cutting a further 730 jobs as part of a major restructuring programme.
The cuts will primarily affect staff in its group transformation and retail banking teams, and will not lead to further bank closures, it said.
The Unite union said the move was “shameful”, and that the decision did not chime with the bank’s strong recent results. It called for Lloyds to postpone restructuring amid the rising threat of Covid-19.
“Unite cannot comprehend why Lloyds Banking Group would choose to cut 1,000 staff who have given the bank such commitment and dedication during a global pandemic,” said Unite national officer Rob MacGregor.
Last month, Lloyds posted quarterly profits well above forecasts, after cashing in on a coronavirus-driven boom in demand for mortgages.
Caterpillar, the US construction equipment manufacturer, has also announced 700 job losses at its electrical generator plant in Larne, County Antrim. The plant at Springvale, also in Northern Ireland, is unaffected.
The total number of Caterpillar employees in Northern Ireland is currently about 1,600.