Unite the Union says Sainsbury’s must guarantee alternative employment elsewhere for the 109 workers based in Craigavon as they face the threat of joblessness in mouth of Christmas.
The union also fears that the Craigavon site closure may be a weathervane pointing to a wider retail threat posed as a result of Northern Ireland Protocol trade restrictions.
Unite regional officer, Taryn Trainor, challenged Sainsbury’s over this morning’s (Tuesday) announcement by the company that they plan to close their Craigavon supermarket.
She called on the company to ensure the 109 workers affected are redeployed and face no detriment.
“This morning’s announcement will be hugely concerning news for the 109 workers at the Craigavon supermarket who now face the prospect of losing their livelihoods in the mouth of Christmas,” said ms Trainor.
“Unite has been on the ground engaging with our members to charter a course to secure protections and guarantees from this employer.
“There is absolutely no excuse for this decision. Last year and despite the pandemic lockdown, the company still made a clear profit before tax of £356 million pounds.
“Sales have surged in the last quarter suggesting that the company will make even higher profits in the year to come. Sadly however, this company expects the workers employed at its Craigavon site to pay the price for increasing those profits even further – as their store is not judged profitable enough.
“We are seeking guarantees that the mostly low-paid workers facing the threat of joblessness will be found alternative employment elsewhere with costs of redeployment being met by Sainsbury’s. It is unconscionable that a worker earning a bare living wage of £9.50 an hour should not be expected to cover such costs.”
Turning to the rationale for closure, Ms Trainor called on Sainsbury’s to confirm its commitment to the post-Brexit Northern Ireland retail market.
“There are fears that this closure could be a weathervane for more to come. The rationale offered by Sainsbury’s for this closure include changing demographics which makes little sense except that as a cover for the impact of post-Brexit trading arrangements under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“Sainsbury’s has been extremely vocal in recent months highlighting the impact of Brexit on reduced choice of products on shelves here in Northern Ireland. They have also had to use competitors to supply stores in Northern Ireland. These factors would obviously impact profits.
“We need have a commitment from Sainsbury’s that they are committed to Northern Ireland for the long-term. Unite will be engaging with our members in this store to determine our next steps in response to this devastating announcement”, Ms Trainor concluded.