FISH processors in Grimsby were today anxiously studying reports that the supermarket giant Tesco is planning to cut back on the number of fresh fish counters in its larger stores as part of a major jobs review.
The reports, which first appeared in the Mail On Sunday, suggest that the retailer could axe thousands of jobs, with its in-store bakeries, staff canteens, meat, fish and delicatessen counters in the firing line.
Some counters may be closed while others could be scaled back, to open for just two or three days a week.
More than a decade ago Tesco became a pioneer in rolling out in-store fresh fish counters based on the traditional fishmonger, which by then had largely disappeared from Britain’s high streets.
The company Seachill was originally set up in Grimsby with the objective of supplying Tesco with fresh fish, although it has expanded into other areas since then.
And a number of other local firms also sell fresh seafood to supermarkets. It is estimated that each fish counter employs up to six fishmongers. Grimsby also trains Tesco staff nationally in specialist fish handling skills.
The company said last night that it was ‘finalising plans’ over future job numbers, adding that whenever it makes changes its staff will be told first. But it declined to comment further.
The other worry is that competitors tend to follow Tesco if its initiatives prove to be successful.
Steve Norton, who retired as chief executive of the Grimsby Fish Merchants Association three years ago, said: ‘I do remember when the fresh fish counters first began to appear in large supermarkets and they brought a lot of extra trade to the town.
‘We shall have to wait and see if these reports are correct, but if they are then it is not good news for Grimsby.’
Meanwhile, Unite and Usdaw, two of the trade unions whose members will be most affected by any cuts, described the news as worrying and distressing and have called for urgent meetings with Tesco.