Driv­ers in strike threat over jobs row

Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - Enda Mullen Busi­ness Reporter enda. mullen@ coven­try­tele­graph. net

MORE than 1,000 Co- op driv­ers across the coun­try are to be con­sulted on in­dus­trial ac­tion af­ter 50 driv­ers at its Coven­try dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre were trans­ferred to haulier Ed­die Sto­bart.

At a meet­ing on Wed­nes­day Co- op bosses told the driv­ers based at the Co- op’s na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre on Prol­o­gis Park in Long­ford about the Ed­die Sto­bart move, which will come into ef­fect in April.

The huge 310,000 sq ft Coven­try op­er­a­tion sup­plies re­gional Co- op dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tres around the UK and em­ploys al­most 700 staff.

The ac­tion, from union Unite, has been prompted by con­cerns for the job se­cu­rity of the Coven­try driv­ers and in the long term for driv­ers at other cen­tres across the UK if the Co- op con­tin­ues to out­source driv­ing op­er­a­tions.

Speak­ing about Ed­die Sto­bart move the union said it had “se­ri­ous con­cerns” about the haulier.

As such it plans to con­sult Co- op driv­ers based at Coven­try, as well as those in Birt­ley, New­cas­tle, Car­rick­fer­gus, Castle­wood, Ne­w­house, Ply­mouth and Thur­rock - with a view to a sub­se­quent bal­lot for in­dus­trial ac­tion.

In 2012, Unite was em­broiled in a long- run­ning dis­pute when Tesco trans­ferred 184 work­ers to Ed­die Sto­bart.

The driv­ers were sub- se­quently is­sued with ter­mi­na­tion of em­ploy­ment no­tices. Unite said many of the driv­ers who lost their jobs were still out of work. Unite na­tional of­fi­cer for retail dis­tri­bu­tion Adrian Jones said: “We are very op­posed to this pro­posed trans­fer of Co- op driv­ers to Ed­die Sto­bart.

“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.”

He added: “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.”

Mr Jones said the union was “very dis­ap­pointed” given the fact it had been sup­port­ive of the Co- op re­cently when it went through “dif­fi­cult times” and added: “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.”

A Co- op spokesman said: “We have en­tered into con­sul­ta­tion with af­fected col­leagues re­gard­ing some of our lo­gis­tics op­er­a­tions.

“The con­sul­ta­tion is with col­leagues about the pro­posed changes and how they are po­ten­tially im­pacted.”

The Co- op’s retail ware­house at Prol­o­gis Park

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