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British supermarkets draft in army of temps to ‘feed the nation’ | World news


Food retailers are drafting in an army of coronavirus temps to “feed the nation” as worried shoppers continue to panic-buy groceries.

With millions of jobs at risk as whole sectors of the economy close down, besieged food stores, including Asda, Tesco, Co-op and Iceland, are creating thousands of temporary jobs in a bid to keep their shelves full.

Recruitment is being fast-tracked, with the Co-op – which is creating 5,000 temporary posts – urging job hunters to walk into their nearest store with a “view to starting work in a matter of days”.

Tesco is hiring temps for 12-week stints, with one store manager boasting on Twitter that recruits could be “fired up and ready to go” within four hours.

Asda, the UK’s third biggest supermarket chain, said it was working with a number of national companies that had been forced to stand down staff as the hospitality and travel industries grind to a halt. Their employees were being offered shifts or temporary secondments, a move that would ensure “individuals remain in work and companies do not have the additional pressure of staff costs during this crisis”, Asda said.

Asda chief executive, Roger Burnley, said: “The way our colleagues are working to support the nation is incredible and I want to support them and those closest to them who are experiencing the other end of this crisis and need work. Where we can provide opportunities for employment, even short term, we want to play our part.”

The Co-op said it was looking to hire pub and restaurant workers who had lost their jobs as a result of government restrictions on social contact. With permanent and temporary roles available all over the country, the extra hands would be used to fill shelves, pick online orders and provide assistance to vulnerable customers, the mutual said.

The Co-op Food chief executive, Jo Whitfield, said: “Whilst our store and depot colleagues are working round the clock to ensure people have the essentials they need, we are all too aware that many people working in bars, pubs and restaurants are currently out of work. It makes sense for us to try and temporarily absorb part of this highly skilled workforce as we work together to feed the nation.”

Asda employees are being encouraged to use social media to urge friends and family whose livelihoods have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak to inquire about job opportunities at their local store.

Waitrose has asked workers in 40 stores to recommend friends and family who could help out on the shop floor for about a month.

The major supermarkets have already seconded head office staff to help out on the front line as they struggle to tackle huge queues and a sales boom similar to Christmas. Marks & Spencer on Thursday said it was transferring 4,600 staff who usually work in its clothing and homewares departments, as well as its cafes, to help out in its food halls. Six hundred John Lewis department store workers have been sent to work at Waitrose.

Earlier this week, Morrisons said it was hiring 3,500 staff as it ramped up its grocery home delivery service and bolstered staff numbers in its distribution centres.

Separately, Asda confirmed that hourly paid staff working in its stores and distribution centres would receive full pay if they needed to take time off due to coronavirus. Vulnerable workers who needed to self-isolate would receive full pay for the full 12 weeks to protect their health, Asda said.



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