UK

Morrison Slashes 700 Jobs A Week After Osborne Tells Workers He Is Chancellor Of 'Hardworking' People

10/04/2013 14:39 BST | Updated 10/04/2013 15:48 BST

Nearly 700 jobs are at risk at Morrisons, the supermarket where last week George Osborne made a speech in defence of cutting benefits, saying he would make sure that the Coalition government was one for "hardworking people like you".

Just days after the Chancellor told employees at a Kent branch that he was bringing in welfare reforms to make sure work always paid, the supermarket giant announced it was rolling out new machines to replace manual cash-counting in its back offices.

The latest job cuts follow its decision to axe 165 roles at its headquarters six months ago by outsourcing financial transaction processing to an Indian firm.

osborne

Osborne was speaking at a Kent branch of Morrisons

The company said in a statement: "The introduction of new technology is an ongoing programme to ensure that Morrisons continues to improve its competitiveness.

"The new technology will simplify the operation and mean that cash can be automatically counted."

Morrisons has been losing market share in recent weeks, with Kantar figures showing its slice of the grocery market slid to 11.7% in the 12 weeks to March 17, down from 12.3% a year earlier.

It blamed sliding sales over the key Christmas period on weak advertising of promotions and tough competition.

While Morrisons defended their decision to replace jobs with technology, the move will come as an embarrasment for Osborne who justified his controversial welfare reforms to his audience by saying this government backed people who "worked hard."

He told the supermarket workers last Tuesday: "One of your company slogans - 'every penny matters' - is a very fitting catchphrase for what I want to talk about.

"I want to talk about the major changes we’re making to our tax and welfare system this month.

"Changes that are all about making sure that we use every penny we can to back hard working people who want to get on in life.

"Changes that are all about backing people like you.

"For too long, we’ve had a system where people who did the right thing – who get up in the morning and work hard – felt penalised for it, while people who did the wrong thing got rewarded for it."

At the time he was mocked by some media outlets for adopting more of an Estuarine accent, dropping his t's and pronouncing British as 'Briddish' whilst talking to workers.

The Telegraph reported that he appeared to leave his Bullingdon consonants behind, instead appearing to say "We’re buildin’ a benefits system that means ya always bedda off in work.”

Now that it is likely 700 people will be made redundant, the Chancellor's austerity policy is once again under scrutiny.

Before Osborne defiantly stuck to his austerity plan in his 2013 budget, three former members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) launched a scathing attack on George Osborne’s handling of the economy, calling him the "most inept Chancellor ever."

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, economists Sushil Wadhwani, Adam Posen and David Blanchflower call the chancellor’s austerity measures "premature", “self-defeating” and "completely at odds with economic theory". They argue that the UK is now in the midst of a Japanese-style 'lost decade' of economic stagnation and high unemployment.

“It’s difficult to believe that coalition policy hasn’t made things worse,” says Wadhwani. "The debate is: how much worse?"