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Coles is considering removing in-store butches from its supermarket and move towards selling pre-packaged meat.

The supermarket plans on “redeploying” in-store butchers and other meat workers in its supermarkets.

However, the Queensland branch secretary of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union, Matt Journeaux, told ABC Radio Brisbane that the plan would be “devastating”.

“A lot of these [Coles] butchers have been there for 20 and 30 years — some in excess of 30 years,” Mr Journeaux said.

“So this is absolutely devastating if these people are made redundant. Obviously that industry knowledge and that ability to look after customers goes with them.”

Journeaux said that many butchers employed by Coles had undergone a four-year apprenticeship and a redeployment would a “fairly large backwards step”.

“I think people will make a decision based on Coles’ proposed position to go to ‘retail-ready’ and hopefully it will see more meat sales with private butchers’ shops,” he told the ABC.

The proposal has been slammed online.

“I think this is a stupid decision by Coles,” one wrote on Facebook.

“We should be supporting small business anyway,” another said.

A Coles spokesperson told Yahoo! News Australia it would engage in consultation and its employees.

“We are considering a proposal to align 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,” the Coles spokesperson said.

“Under the proposal, our fresh meat range would be supplied to stores as retail-ready products, and would not require any preparation to be carried out in-store before being placed on the shelves of our meat fridges for customers to buy.

“Over the coming weeks we will continue to engage in consultation on these proposed changes with affected meat team members as well as their union representatives.

“If a decision is made to proceed with the proposal, we will work with affected team members to assess potential redeployment and retraining opportunities within Coles.”

This article originally appeared on Over60.