The view from the shop floor as the UK’s biggest supermarket tries to protect profits while keeping prices down
Supermarkets are cutting costs as they try to protect profits while keeping prices down for customers. Top executives talk about “efficiencies”, but retail workers say that in practice that can mean chilly stores, cutbacks on cleaning and reductions in staff hours on spurious grounds.
The UK’s biggest supermarket, Tesco, for example, has handed out high-profile hourly pay increases for shop workers, but is cutting back the number of hours they can work, according to some staff. Meanwhile, the lowest-paid salaried staff such as team managers say they are having to do more while enduring a real-terms pay cut, with rises of just 3% falling well short of the current 11.1% inflation rate.
I am terrified about what Christmas might look like in Tesco given the amount of hours we are provided with to run our stores. We cut, cut, cut on the pretext of our strategic aim to “save to invest”, but the reality is the cuts destroy shops and management don’t reinvest in anything.
Cleaning is one area that is a constant focus for cuts. Every single year we get fewer and fewer hours for cleaning. Our contract cleaning is done by third parties such as Mitie and Servest, who bid every couple of years for contracts, but what they effectively sign up to is incredibly hard to achieve on the money that Tesco gives them.
One other area being tested out is turning store temperatures down by 1C. This is apparently to help the planet. There is widespread scepticism; it actually will save a huge amount of money. Tesco staff always complain quite rightly that our shops are too cold in the winter months, but it’s never addressed and colleagues end up having to wrap up in many layers to keep warm. They also have lower set temperatures for staff at night.
Recently, Tesco cut about 20 hours from some large stores for “service in the warehouse”, which it was claimed had been wrongly given to stores. The reality is that stores are run so incredibly tight and are under so much pressure, they certainly don’t have the capacity to remove them! It’s just snatching back money as always, putting more and more pressure on Tesco staff.