Staff at the store were told of the closure ‘in a huddle’ this morning.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said, “We have updated colleagues on the difficult decision to close our Craigavon store and petrol filling station in early next year.
“We understand this will be an unsettling time for those affected and we are doing everything we can to find alternative roles within Sainsbury’s.
“Customers can continue to shop with us online and at our stores in the surrounding area, including at our Dungannon, Armagh and Lisburn or supermarkets.”
Unite, the union has fears that the Craigavon closure may be a weathervane pointing to a wider retail threat posed as a result of the NI Protocol.
Unite regional officer, Taryn Trainor, challenged Sainsbury’s over this morning’s 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. 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,” said Ms Trainor.
Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart said: “This announcement has come as a huge shock to staff and to the wider community. This store is very popular and Craigavon has proven itself to be a strong base for retail.
“Indeed the Rushmere Centre has recently had the news that Primark is taking up the former Debenhams unit and this will drive footfall even more.
“While there is lead in time to closure obviously this is a difficult time for staff. I trust that support can be provided to them to secure alternative employment and anyone needing guidance can contact me for signposting to support.”
SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly has said the closure of the Sainsbury’s store at Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon is a huge jobs blow for the area.
The Upper Bann MLA said: “This announcement is devastating news for staff and shoppers in this area who frequent this store. For 109 staff to potentially lose their jobs in the run-up to Christmas is a huge jobs blow. This area has long suffered from a chronic lack of investment and this is evidenced by the already high unemployment locally and this news will only make things worse.
“This closure will also leave this huge store empty, while I hope it will be filled by another shop as soon as possible there are only a limited number of companies capable of taking on this huge space. This is the latest in a long line of business closures in this area and we need to see an Executive strategy to revitalise this town and the many other towns across the North that find themselves in the same position.
“Questions have also been raised about what led to this decision with Sainsbury’s making large pre-tax profits last year, with many local people relying on this store during the coronavirus lockdown. My office will be liaising with the staff affected to see what assistance can be offered and I hope that they secure alternative employment soon.”
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