Home >Co-op drivers vote to strike over Eddie Stobart transfer

Co-op drivers vote to strike over Eddie Stobart transfer

14 March 2016

Co-op drivers have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action over the proposal to transfer 87 drivers in the Midlands to controversial haulier Eddie Stobart Ltd (ESL).

Because of the implications for future outsourcing by the Co-op group, Unite, the country’s largest union, held the ballot for strike action and/or industrial action short of a strike of more than 700 of its driver members.

Today (Monday 14 March), the ballot results showed that 77 per cent had voted for strike action and 84 per cent in favour of industrial action short of a strike.

The Co-op driver members balloted are based at Birtley, Newcastle; Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland; Castlewood, north Derbyshire; Coventry; Inverness; Newhouse, Lanarkshire; Plymouth and Thurrock in Essex.

Unite national officer for retail distribution Adrian Jones said: “The ballot result is a strong mandate from our members to continue to fight hard to protect their pay and conditions.

“We will now be consulting with our members as to the next steps regarding industrial action. In the meantime, we call on the management to sit down and discuss the situation constructively under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas.

“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.”

The national board of The Co-operative Group has agreed to transfer the drivers based at Coventry to ESL next month, but Unite has raised serious concerns about the proposal, given ESL’s past treatment of workers transferred to its operations.

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’.

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.

The Co-op 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.

Adrian Jones added: “We are very opposed to this proposed TUPE [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)] of the Co-op drivers to Eddie Stobart as there is a chasm in its approach to industrial relations, compared to the ethos of the Co-op.

“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.”