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Controversy over automatic tills in French hypermarché

A French supermarket that is set to use only automatic cashier tills on Sunday afternoons is causing controversy, and been accused of ushering in a “dehumanised society”.

The 5,000 m² Geant Casino hypermarché in Angers (Maine-et-Loire, Pays de la Loire) has 115 employees, but is set to experiment with “an automatic service mode [only] from 13h to 21h” on Sundays, from August 25.

There will only be one or two supervisors on-site to ensure the smooth running of the machines and to deal with any customer issues.

The Casino company called the move “a first for a hypermarché”, and said it was responding to client demand.

Yet, workers’ union CGT has denounced the decision as “social regression” and a “job destroying” practice.

Patrice Auvinet, secretary of the local business branch of union CGT and Carrefour hypermarché union head, said: “This is job-destroying. We do not see the point, and we condemn it. This is a social step backwards. Checkout positions represent thousands of jobs in France. Little by little, we are moving towards a time in which the client does most of the work of an employee.”

Mayor of Angers, Christophe Béchu, wrote on Twitter that the move made no economic or social sense. He said: “This decision adds to a bidding war that no-one will win, because a dehumanised society has no future.”

But Casino has maintained that the system has received no opposition from its existing workers, and that the Sunday supervisors will be from an external company, so employees’ current hours and pay will not be affected.

It said: “Our staff will continue to work until 13h on Sundays, so we are within the [legal] rules.”

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