Cape Town – Woolworths Holdings [JSE:WHL] on Monday slammed news reports that it is retrenching 600 workers, saying it is merely in discussions with 593 employees on longer trading hours.In an official statement send to Fin24, the retailer said it is in discussions with a small number of employees regarding the increasing need for longer trading hours and the seven-days-a-week operation expected of retailers. Amid the demands of modern retail and what its customers expect, Woolworths said it would discuss various options with about 3% of its employees who work set, inflexible hours.The retailer employs close to 18 000 people countrywide."The affected employees fall into an employment category which was created many years ago when stores opened from 08:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday and till 13:00 on Saturday and were closed on Sundays and public holidays. “Woolworths, like other major retailers, now trades for longer hours and virtually 365 days a year, and we require employees to be able to work flexible hours given market demands.”It said it prefers its store employees to work flexible schedules. According to Woolworths, it has initiated voluntary discussions with affected employees, who have the option of changing to a permanent contract stipulating flexible hours.Another option for employees over 50 is to take early retirement. Other employees may, however, prefer to leave with a voluntary severance payment. “While we would encourage employees to move to a contract stipulating flexible working hours, these options are our employees’ choice. "Employees who opt for a flexible contract will be provided a conversion payment,” said chief operating officer Sam Ngumeni.Woolworths reiterated that “this is not a formal retrenchment exercise”. * Follow Fin24 on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.