The union said that the Co-op planned to merge its two distribution centres at Chelston and Portbury into a new centre in Avonmouth. Work at the new site would be contracted out to logistics firm Norbert Dentressangle.
About 200 jobs will be affected at the two sites, which are due to close in November 2012, said the union.
‘Soiling its principles’
Unite accused the co-op of ‘soiling its principles’. The union’s national officer for retail distribution, Matt Draper said: “This is the thin end of the wedge and the slippery slope to privatisation of the Co-op’s services. Clearly, this decision is soiling the Co-op’s 19th century founding principles of mutuality for the common good.”
The union said it planned to raise the matter with the Co-operative MPs in the Labour Party – numbering about 30 and also at the Co-op’s board meeting at the end of this month.
Matt Draper said that the Co-op was in breach of a previous agreement that it would not go down the ‘contracting out’ route. This follows the contracting out of work at the Andover distribution centre in Hampshire two years ago, which the Co-op said was a temporary measure in difficult economic times, he added.
“The fact that the Co-op has got the privatisation ‘bug’ is to be deplored. We believe that this will lead to job losses and a diminution in the terms and conditions of those still employed, with no guarantee that the level of service to the local Co-op shops will be maintained.
“We are asking the Co-op to re-think its decision to outsource this work to a private company - and will be seeking assurances from the Co-op that the jobs, and terms and conditions of our members will not be adversely affected.”
The Co-op said it would consider its response to questions asked by FoodManufacture.co.uk