MORE than 300 jobs are at risk after Tesco said it would be closing four Scottish stores over the coming months in a move described by union leaders as a “devastating” blow for workers.
The group announced earlier this month it was bringing down the shutters on 43 loss-making branches across the UK as it battles fierce competition in the supermarket sector.
Yesterday a spokesman said that four branches north of the Border will be axed, including a superstore in the centre of Kirkcaldy employing 189 people.
Tesco will also close its Homeplus household goods store at Fort Kinnaird in Edinburgh, which has 55 staff, along with a Metro outlet in Grangemouth employing 68 people and an Express store in Troon which has 14 staff.
The Edinburgh and Troon stores are scheduled to shut on 15 March, with the Grangemouth and Kirkcaldy branches closing on 4 April.
Yesterday’s announcement came the day after upmarket rival Waitrose said it would be creating 2,000 jobs this year, including about 180 in Milngavie, as it expands its estate. Discount grocer Lidl recently unveiled plans to take on 500 more people across Scotland.
Both chains have been growing at the expense of the “big four” grocers, including Morrisons, which is to close ten loss-making branches this year, putting more than 400 jobs at risk. The Bradford-based chain has said that none of the affected stores are in Scotland.
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About 2,000 staff in total will be hit by Tesco’s closures across the UK and the chain said that it will begin consultations with the affected workers. Chief executive Dave Lewis revealed the closure plan earlier this month as part of wider measures designed to revive the group’s fortunes in the wake of a disastrous 2014. A string of profit warnings was followed by a £263 million accounting scandal, which is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.
Lewis said: “I announced that our performance as a business has fallen significantly short of where we would want it to be and that to protect the future of the business in the UK we would close 43 unprofitable stores.
“The decision to close the stores has been exceptionally difficult to take. I recognise it will affect many hard-working colleagues, our customers and local communities.”
Lewis added: “Our priority is to explain what this announcement means for our colleagues and wherever possible, offer them alternative roles with Tesco. We will continue to serve our customers through other local stores and our dotcom service.”
The retailer has previously said it will not go ahead with planned developments in Aviemore, Banff, Cowdenbeath, Crieff, East Kilbride, Fort William and Glasgow. An extension to a store in Cupar has also been cancelled. The chain currently has 64 superstores in Scotland, along with 144 smaller outlets.
Pauline Foulkes, national officer at the shop workers’ union Usdaw, said: “This is devastating news for over 2,000 dedicated staff in the 43 Tesco stores across the UK, who have worked hard to make their shop viable during a difficult time for the company.
“We will now enter into full and meaningful consultation meetings on this proposal, where we will look closely at the company’s business case for the closures. Our priority is to maximise employment within Tesco, seek redeployment opportunities for members, where possible, and to keep job losses to a minimum.
“We will support, advise and represent our members throughout this difficult period of uncertainty.”