The union representing 1,600 workers who have lost their jobs with supermarket chain Morrisons says the cuts are a “direct consequence” of the company’s takeover of Safeway.
The GMB union also said that among the 1,600 job cuts were 175 women workers based in South Shields who were being offered worse redundancy terms than male workers.
The union said it would file sex discrimination claims unless the women were paid the same as men.
Morrisons announced the redundancies last night when it confirmed the closure of two depots.
The company said it was shutting the sites at Aylesford in Kent and Bristol because it was left with too many distribution centres following its £3bn (€4.4bn) takeover of former rival Safeway in March 2004.
It followed a similar announcement in December over the closure of a third site in Warrington, Cheshire, with the loss of 700 jobs.
The depots deliver food and other goods to supermarkets across the country including former Safeway stores bought by Morrisons.
The GMB union’s acting general secretary, Paul Kenny, said last night: “These redundancies are a direct consequence of the takeover of Safeway by Morrisons.
“We had to drag the management kicking and screaming to face up to and deal with the consequences of the takeover.”
Morrisons said it hoped to “minimise redundancies” and offer staff alternative roles within the company.
In a statement last night, Morrisons said: “In September 2005 we announced that following a review of the Safeway-Morrisons distribution network, three depots were at risk of closure – Aylesford, Bristol and Warrington.
“After considering alternatives to site closure regrettably no viable options have been found and following conclusion of the formal consultation process, we have now confirmed that these depots will close.”
It added: “We recognise that the current situation is difficult for everyone involved and over the coming weeks we will be continuing to meet and talk with individuals, as we manage the operational implications of closure.
“We are aiming to minimise redundancies as far as possible and will be talking about alternative roles within Morrisons.
“Support will be available and we will be doing all we can to help equip people for future employment.”
Morrisons was forced to sell around 200 stores by regulators after the Safeway deal, which was one of the most hotly-contested battles in recent corporate history.
The deal transformed Morrisons into the fourth-biggest food retailer in the UK but has also led to a string of profit warnings.
The Bradford-based grocer posted the first loss in its 106-year history in October as it faced up to costs of the conversion.