A consultative ballot of a 1,000 Co-op drivers for industrial action will be held after the group announced today (Thursday 28 January) that it was transferring about 50 drivers in the Midlands to controversial haulier Eddie Stobart Ltd (ESL).
The national board of the Co-operative group agreed to transfer the drivers based at Coventry to ESL in April.
Because of the implications for future outsourcing by the Co-op group, Unite, the country’s largest union, will be holding a consultative ballot of a 1,000 of its Co-op driver members based at Birtley, Newcastle; Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland; Castlewood, north Derbyshire; Coventry; Newhouse, Lanarkshire; Plymouth and Thurrock in Essex.
Unite has raised serious concerns about the proposal, given ESL’s past treatment of workers transferred to its operations.
In 2012, Unite was embroiled in a long-running dispute when Tesco in Doncaster TUPE’d [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)] 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.
Unite national officer for retail distribution Adrian Jones said: “We are very opposed to this proposed TUPE of the Co-op drivers to Eddie Stobart as this company has proved to be ruthless in its treatment of such workers, as its behaviour at Doncaster proves only too clearly.
“Eddie Stobart’s approach to industrial relations compared to the ethos of the Co-operative movement is like ‘chalk-and-cheese’.
“The Co-op has already intimated that it does not see itself as a haulier. It is our belief 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.
“That’s why we are holding this consultative ballot for these 1,000 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.
“Our members’ job security across the national transport network is being put at risk by the Co-op’s action. We are taking the temperature for industrial action and expect to then move to a full industrial action ballot.
“The Co-op group has been through some difficult times recently during which Unite was extremely supportive. We are, therefore, very disappointed by this announcement.
“The Co-op’s Christmas retail figures were encouraging, but we see this decision as a big retrograde step.
“All Unite is asking is that we have more time to investigate the viability of the comprehensive list of suggestions put forward by our shop stewards at Coventry to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
“But the management has declined to give us that opportunity, which is a great shame given the long-standing ethical values of the Co-op.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite national officer Adrian Jones on 07739 654 859 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.