Unite ballots 700 Co-op workers over potential strike

By Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

Unite the Union is balloting 700 Co-operative drivers over potential strike action
Unite the Union is balloting 700 Co-operative drivers over potential strike action

Related tags Eddie stobart British co-operative movement

More than 700 Co-operative Group drivers considering strike action, after the retailer announced plans to transfer 50 jobs in the midlands from ESL to fellow haulier Eddie Stobart.

 ​Workers are being balloted for industrial action over the proposal to move the Coventry-based drivers by Unite the Union.

The ballot for strike action and/or industrial action short of a strike will be held from Tuesday March 1. The ballot closes on Monday March 14.
Unite the Union raised “serious concerns”​ about the proposed transfer because of “controversial”​ Eddie Stobart’s past treatment of workers transferred to its operations.

Opposed to transfer

“We are very opposed to this proposed TUPE​ [Transfer of Undertakings (protection of Employment] of the Co-op drivers to Eddie Stobart as its approach to industrial relations compared to the ethos of the Co-operative movement is akin to ‘oil-and-water’,” Unite the Union’s national officer for retail distribution Adrian Jones said.
“That’s why we are holding this strike ballot for these 700 driver members because if they are outsourced it is highly likely that their pay, and terms and conditions will be seriously eroded; even their jobs could be under threat.”  

Unite the Union said its members were not convinced the TUPE would happen as Eddie Stobart is not consistant with the values and principles of the Co-operative.

“Basically we have heard it all before and while it may be copper bottomed, it is not cast iron,” Jones said.

“Our members want to stay with the Co-op and our members nationally are intent on supporting their colleagues in Coventry.”


The Co-op driver members being balloted

  • Birtley
  • Newcastle
  • Carrickfergus
  • Northern Ireland
  • Castlewood
  • North Derbyshire
  • Coventry
  • Inverness
  • Newhouse
  • Lanarkshire
  • Plymouth
  • Thurrock

 Co-op doesn’t see itself as haulier

The Co-operative Group has already intimated that it does not see itself as a haulier and the union argues that with four sites already outsourced in Andover, Avonmouth, Cambridgeshire and the north west, the plans to outsource Coventry are the thin end of the wedge.

Andy Perry, logistics director at Co-operative Food, has said that there are no plans to outsource either the other areas of transport operated by the Co-op or any of its warehouse functions – but this is disputed by Unite who said that its members did not believe these ‘assurances’.

The Co-operative Group have not yet responded to FoodManufacture.co.uk’s request for comment.

In 2012, Unite was embroiled in a long-running dispute when Tesco in Doncaster TUPE’d 184 workers to ESL. The drivers were then issued with a termination of employment notice with no prospect of re-employment. Many of those drivers are still out of work.

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