Unite calls on Co-op Group to rethink Markerstudy insurance deal

The union joined Tony Lloyd MP for a protest outside the Rochdale Pioneers Museum on Toad Lane

The Co-op Group has been criticised by the trade union Unite and Labour MP Tony Lloyd over the sale of its insurance underwriting business to Markerstudy.

The Group announced the deal to sell CIS General Insurance last year, alongside a 13-year agreement with Markerstudy to distribute motor and home insurance products.

But trade union Unite, which represents Co-op Insurance staff, has condemned the move. It says the sale will result in around 200 job losses, adding: “Markerstudy has also stated that it will not engage with union representatives regarding trade union recognition for the remaining 800 staff.”

It argues the sale is “a betrayal of the ethical philosophy and principles of the co-operative movement”.

On Tuesday it held a demonstration outside the Rochdale Pioneers Museum – based at the Toad Lane site of the original co-op store, alongside Tony Lloyd, the Labour MP for Rochdale.

Mr Lloyd has tabled an early day motion before the House of Commons calling on the Group to review its decision.

The motion states concern over job losses and lack of union recognition for the remaining staff, adding: “The Co-operative Insurance workforce have served the company loyally, some over many years.”

It also “reminds Co-operative Insurance of the moral and ethical base of the co-operative movement, which is just as important today as at any time in its history” and calls on the Co-operative Insurance management to “examine its moral compass and to review its decision to so disadvantage key stakeholders in the Co-operative Insurance business”.

A spokesperson for Co-op Insurance said: “Our colleagues have been our utmost priority when choosing a suitable buyer for the sale of our insurance underwriting business.

“It remains the case that this sale will achieve the best outcome for our colleagues and members going forwards and provides the basis for the Co-op to significantly increase its insurance footprint across the UK.”

Tanya Gerrard-White, director of HR and talent development at Markerstudy, said: “During the course of our purchase of Co-op Insurance we have engaged with representatives from Unite to share and discuss proposals to minimise the impact of the transaction on Co-op colleagues.

“Their voices and input is of the utmost importance to our group, as demonstrated by the wealth of initiatives that encourage recognition, nurture personal development, and support the health and wellbeing of every individual.

“We look forward to welcoming Co-op Insurance colleagues into our organisation and sharing with them the benefits and opportunities afforded by freedom of speech and autonomy.”

Markerstudy has also said that headcount will not be reduced by more than 200 and it expects the number to be lower. It could not give exact numbers of compulsory redundancies, as it is still working out the details of transferring the staff, but its spokesperson added that a “significant level of interest” in its voluntary redundancy scheme will lessen the final figure.

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