M&S to cut jobs as union warns of automated check-out threat
Major job losses are predicted in the retail sector as employers turn to self-service checkouts after Marks and Spencer announced plans to cut 97 jobs across the country.
A senior union official said there was little unions can do bar trying to get good exit terms for workers due to automation and increased online sales, as it was like "putting a finger in a dam".
Gerry Light, of Mandate, said nobody knew how many jobs were going to be lost, but retail was already "significantly impacted" by technology.
"I think these redundancies at Marks and Spencer are due to a combination of factors, but automation and technology are having a huge impact across retail," he said.
"I've no doubt the big retailers will tell you it's not significant, but every one of them has reduced their workforce."
He was commenting after Marks and Spencer confirmed it was seeking 97 voluntary redundancies in seven stores.
The closing date for the scheme is tomorrow, and staff will find out next week if they have been accepted.
The exit package is worth three weeks' pay per year of service, plus statutory pay.
A Marks and Spencer spokesperson denied the scheme had anything to do with automation, including the roll-out of 'fast lanes' in Dublin city centre stores.
Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute Tom Healy said there would undoubtedly be retail job losses due to automation, and it was a question of whether there would be enough job creation to "mop that up".
However, Tom Burke of Retail Ireland expects the size of the retail workforce to be static over the next few years.