Supermarket chain Asda is reportedly considering cuts of up to 2,500 jobs across its operations in a move to reduce costs ahead of its proposed merger with competitor Sainsbury’s.

According to GMB, the union for Asda workers, this decision could affect employees working across its bakeries, petrol stations and back office from February 2019.

Asda is also considering closing counters used to return items across its George clothing range.

Asda told The Guardian: “In a competitive retail market, where customers rightly expect great value and ease of service, we must always look at how we can work more quickly and efficiently for them and inevitably, that means we need to consider changing the roles we need our colleagues to do or the hours needed in particular parts of our stores.”

The retailer could integrate back office functions such as administration, convert some its petrol stations to self-service mode and reduce working hours of staff, as well as of those serving as front-end hosts.

“In a competitive retail market, we must always look at how we can work more quickly and efficiently for them and inevitably.”

In response to the announcement by Asda, GMB union noted that it would fight for every single job.

GMB trade union national officer Gary Carter said: “These proposed redundancies are a hammer blow to Asda workers. The timing of this announcement, in the run up to Christmas, is doubly appalling.

“Asda is performing well and is highly profitable because of the hard work of our members, who are the backbone of the company. These cuts make no sense whatsoever slashing our members jobs would hurt the service Asda customers receive. GMB will fight tooth and nail for every single job.

“With all the speculation surrounding the proposed Sainsbury’s merger and potential sell offs of stores, this news will not put anyone’s mind at rest.”

Asda is owned by US-based Walmart. Its planned £12bn merger with Sainsbury’s is still pending CMA investigation.