A former employee of the Heart of England Co-operative has lost a legal claim for unfair dismissal.
Mr Ashwin Rathod, who worked in a warehouse, was one of the dozens of Heart of England employees who lost their jobs following the closure of the society’s department store in Coventry in October last year.
Mr Rathod told the employment tribunal in Birmingham that he believed the Heart of England society should have found him another position within the organisation. He had been working for the co-op for seven years.
Following a two-day hearing, judge Victoria Dean rejected the unfair dismissal claim saying that Mr Rathod had preferred to take redundancy payment.
In September 2015 Heart of England announced it would close all of its non-food retail offerings over the next 12 months. The society ran department stores in Nuneaton, Bedworth, Atherstone, Hinckley, Rugby and Leamington Spa. The board argued the closures were based on substantial losses reported by the non-food division, which amounted to £18m over the last 10 years.
The decision was met with criticism by some members of the co-op, who on 10 March voted for a motion to stop and review the store closures. A review carried out by Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP a few months later concluded that the Heart of England had a “justified reason” to close its non-food store in Nuneaton. The firm was commissioned by the society’s board to review the viability of the Nuneaton store as well as the process the board had undertaken to reach the decision to close the non-food division. Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP presented the findings of the review at a special members’ meeting in Nuneaton on 14 May.
The society issued the following statement regarding the unfair dismissal claim: “After a two day hearing at Birmingham Employment Tribunal, the tribunal judge Ms Victoria Dean dismissed a claim brought by Ashwin Rathod for unfair dismissal on the basis that Mr Rathod was fairly dismissed because of redundancy.
“Mr Rathod had been employed by the Heart of England Co-operative Society and was made redundant following the closure of the Coventry store.
“When the decision was taken to close the Coventry store following significant losses, the society entered into a consultation period with both the union and employees and at all times followed due process.”