Hundreds of jobs at risk in Morrisons cash-handling move

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Nearly 700 jobs are at risk at Morrisons after the grocer decided to implement automated cash-handling technology in the back offices of its stores.

The UK's fourth-biggest supermarket said the introduction of the cash-handling systems is part of an ongoing programme to improve its "competitiveness".

Most of its big grocery rivals have already introduced similar technology to reduce costs.

Morrisons has started a consultation with 689 cash office managers and supervisors about a proposal to remove these roles in its 490 stores.

Despite the fact that a growing proportion of customers now pay with plastic cards, supermarkets still take huge sums in cash on a daily basis.

The job cuts come at a difficult time for Morrisons, which has suffered a fall in profits and underlying sales recently.

The Bradford-based grocer's pre-tax profits fell by 8 per cent to £879m over the year to 3 February. This was its first decline since 2005-06, when Morrisons was recovering from its troubled acquisition of Safeway in 2004.

The supermarket said the new technology will simplify its cash handling and mean that its cash can be automatically counted. While heavy job losses are expected, it is understood that Morrisons will try to offer staff other positions in its stores where possible.

Dalton Philips, the chief executive of Morrisons, said its recent trading had been hurt by not selling food online and its relatively small number of convenience stores, although it will have 100 by February.

The supermarket's underlying sales fell by 4.1 per cent in its fourth-quarter, as analysts said it lost market share to the discounters Aldi and Lidl in its Northern heartland.

Last month, Morrisons admitted it has been in discussions with Ocado about a potential deal to license the online grocer's technology ahead of it launching food on the internet next year.