Coles ditches in-store butchers with all meat to be pre-packaged from October 10


Coles will make a controversial major change from Sunday after giving one key service the chop.

Coles shoppers wanting to get their hands on freshly cut meat from Sunday will be out of luck, with the supermarket giant ditching its in-store butcher service.

The move will mean workers will either need to be redeployed or made redundant.

Only pre-packaged “retail ready” meat will be available from Monday.

Earlier this year Coles’ proposed restructure of its meat department was revealed.

At the time the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union said 1524 Coles meat employees would be affected under the move, which would mean meat would be delivered already cut rather than prepared in-house.

“They want to get rid of the whole lock, stock and barrel,” the union’s Victorian secretary Paul Conway said.

“All meat managers, all butchers, all slicers and the others that do packing and stocking shelves.”

The union said workers would be offered redeployment under the proposal at a lower rate of pay or redundancies.

Most of the meat in Coles is already pre-packaged and only some beef or lamb is cut and wrapped in store.

“To help us meet the changing needs of our customers, we are aligning our meat operating models nationally in our stores so that we can consistently deliver high-quality retail-ready meat for our customers whenever they want to shop,” a Coles spokeswoman said.

“The change will mean our fresh meat range will be supplied to stores as retail-ready products and will not require any preparation to be carried out in-store before being placed on the shelves of our meat fridges for customers to buy.”

Meat counters will continue to operate in a small number of stores.

“Prior to making our decision to proceed with these changes, we have engaged in consultation with affected meat team members as well as their union representatives,” the spokeswoman said.

“We are working with affected team members to assess potential redeployment and retraining opportunities within Coles.”

Woolworths has already made the change to pre-packaged meat, and Aldi has never had an in-store butcher’s service.

Mr Conway earlier told NCA NewsWire that finding other work in the sector would be difficult for butchers after a tough couple of years in the meat industry and “not enough jobs to go around”.

“Both Woolworths and Coles have been whittling away the role of a shop butcher — they don’t have bandsaws, they don’t have mincing any longer,” he said.

“So the skill set that was a butcher years ago is slowly being diminished, although in saying that, there was still roles for butchers in that space.

“Woolworths had made a decision some time ago to go retail ready and Coles are now following suit.”

A Coles spokeswoman said the company had invested in state-of-the-art facilities and worked with supplier partners to produce fresh Australian meat to a high standard.

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