The shopworkers’ union is hoping to minimise potential job losses at Bradford-based Morrisons supermarkets, which is looking to cut cash-handling staff from its 490 stores and replace them with machines.

Nearly 700 jobs are at risk as the supermarket seeks to cut costs after a fall in annual profits and follows the industry trend to replace manual cash counting with an automated process, which it says will be more efficient.

On average, one or two people at each store are responsible for adding up cash from the tills at the end of each day.

The plan to install new machinery affects Morrisons supermarket sites and not its expanding convenience store chain. Locally, Morrisons has five stores around Bradford along with supermarkets at Keighley, Skipton, Guiseley, Horsforth, Yeadon, Elland, Heckmondwike and Morley.

Morrisons has entered a four-week consultation process with union Usdaw.

The UK’s fourth-biggest supermarket chain, which employs about 131,000 staff, is under pressure to cut costs after 2012 profits fell seven per cent to £879 million.

The latest job cuts follow its decision to axe 165 roles at its Gain Lane headquarters six months ago by outsourcing financial transaction processing to an Indian firm.

Morrisons said: “The introduction of new technology is an ongoing programme to ensure that Morrisons continues to improve its competitiveness. The new technology will simplify the operation and mean that cash can be automatically counted.”

An Usdaw spokesman said: “The Union is hopeful that all staff who want to remain with the company will be found alternative roles.”

Morrisons has been losing market share in recent weeks, with figures showing its slice of the grocery market slid to 11.7 per cent in the 12 weeks to March 17, down from 12.3 per cent a year earlier. It blamed sliding sales over the Christmas period on weak advertising of promotions and tough competition.

The retailer plans to rectify this by accelerating the roll-out of its M Local smaller store format to 100 sites by the end of the year and starting an online food offer by January next year. It is in talks with online grocer Ocado to share its operating knowledge.