Britain’s third biggest supermarket chain is to start consulting with staff over potential job losses next year which could total up to 2,500, it has been claimed.
Asda, which has been owned by US retail giant Walmart since 1999, has agreed to be taken over by larger rival Sainsbury’s.
The proposed merger is the subject of an inquiry by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Jobs in the George areas of Asda stores could also be affected, it is understood.
Areas of work affected by any changes include petrol, bakery, back office and so-called hosting.
The company declined to comment on any potential job cuts.
A statement said: ‘In a competitive retail market, where customers rightly expect great value and ease of service, we must always look at how we can work more quickly and efficiently for them – and, inevitably, that means we need to consider changing the roles we need our colleagues to do or the hours needed in particular parts of our stores.
‘We believe the proposed changes we are consulting on would allow us to do a better job for our customers.
‘We also recognise that discussions about potential change aren’t easy. If the decision is taken to implement the proposed changes, we would work with our colleagues to look at the potential impact of these proposals on them.’
Asda is planning to merge with Sainsbury’s although the deal is to be subjected to investigation after the Competition and Markets Authority said it raised sufficient concerns to be referred for an in-depth review.
It is understood that consultations with individuals will not start until the new year and any redundancies will take place in February at the earliest.
The plans include changes to workers’ hours, it is understood.
The proposals are believed to include combining back office functions such as administration, removing some George desks, changing the format of some petrol stations from kiosk or shop to automated, and reducing the hours of bakery staff and those employed as ‘front-end hosts’.
Gary Carter, national officer of the GMB union, said: ‘These proposed redundancies are a hammer blow to Asda workers. The timing of this announcement, in the run-up to Christmas, is doubly appalling.
‘Asda is performing well and is highly profitable because of the hard work of our members, who are the backbone of the company. GMB will fight tooth and nail for every single job.
‘These cuts make no sense whatsoever. Slashing our members’ jobs would hurt the service Asda customers receive.
‘With all the speculation surrounding the proposed Sainsbury’s merger and potential sell-off of stores, this news will not put anyone’s mind at rest.’
Asda stressed that it was a consultation process and any job figure was a reflection of the potential number of workers affected, with nothing yet final.
The company was not speculating on the outcome of the consultation.
The axing of up to 2,500 jobs at Asda comes amid wider retail woes hitting UK retailers.
This week shoppers and former staff were left mourning the decline of Debenhams after the chain said it could shut up to 50 stores in a battle to survive.
The shortfall is the biggest in its 240-year history and adds to the concerning figures Chancellor Philip Hammond will have address in the Budget next Monday as high street stores struggle to compete against their online rivals.