SHOPPERS should boycott self-service checkouts to save jobs on the high street, workers pleaded yesterday.
Union reps said more and more retail staff were being laid off while shareholders continue to rake in dividends.
Delegates at general union GMB’s commercial services conference singled out Asda for criticism alongside online clothing giant Asos — whose exploitative employment practices were exposed by the Star on Monday.
“Asda is making our members redundant as they chase more profits for shareholders,” Alison Cousin, a rep at the company, said.
She said supermarkets deliberately encouraged customers to use self-service checkouts so they could take staff off tills and eventually lay them off.
She urged colleagues: “Never use a machine to pay if there is a manned checkout available.
“Please, please don’t shop with robots — instead, come and shop with me, with our members and with GMB members in retail.”
Wilko worker Susan Blade added: “GMB should run a campaign to save our members’ jobs. We are the companies’ biggest assets — not technology.”
The closure of British Home Stores last week has led commentators to proclaim a crisis on Britain’s high street.
GMB delegates heard that Britain has more online shoppers than any other country in Europe — and that the volume of online shopping had risen by 16.2 per cent from 2014 to 2015.
Holding up the Star’s front-page exposé of conditions at Asos, Yorkshire delegate Phil Steer said: “The people there are treated near enough to slave labour.”
He said unions should give bosses a choice, telling them: “We can be a good, constructive partner for you — or we can be a bloody nightmare.
“One of the things we need to be very, very clear about is that employers need to be afraid of us.”
He said unions could not reverse the rapid slide towards online shopping — but they should aim for good conditions both on the high street and in warehouses.
“With a lot of people, if they knew that the union wanted people to queue up [as opposed to using self-service checkouts] that would tip them over,” he said.
“It’s our responsibility to save the jobs on the high street, and it’s also our responsibility to fight for and organise the online sector.”