Co-op Group moves to reassure drivers over outsourcing plans

The Co-operative Group has written to 1,000 of its UK distribution drivers, after receiving notification from Unite that it intends to call a consultative ballot about a plan to outsource trunking operations. At the end of January it was announced that 85 staff at Co-operative Food’s Coventry distribution centre were to be transferred to private haulier Eddie Stobart.

Unite, the trade union representing the workers, said it had “serious concerns” about the impact of the proposals, and was was holding a ballot for the 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”. The union also cited concerns about Eddie Stobart’s past treatment of transferred workers.

The Group currently operates around 3,000 vehicles and trailers from 13 distribution centres, with the Coventry operation involving regular routes to supply other Co-op depots.

In a move to reassure other drivers, Andy Perry, director of logistics at the Co-operative Food, said: “We believe it is important that colleagues are clear about our future intentions.”

The Group confirmed that while there are plans to outsource certain operations at Castlewood (which involve deliveries from suppliers and to Co-op depots, not to stores), “there are no plans to outsource either the other areas of transport operated by the Co-op or any of our warehouse functions”.

Mr Perry said: “This means that the drivers who have been asked to participate in a ballot at Carrickfergus, Newhouse, Dalcross, Birtley, Castlewood, West Thurrock and Plymouth can rest assured that there are no plans in place to outsource any of these operations.

“We have been engaged in a lengthy period of discussion with all of our recognised trade unions regarding the proposal to outsource the trunking and primary operations. Unfortunately, our current model cannot overcome the fundamental issue regarding the empty running of vehicles in both of these areas. This incurs a significant cost with no benefits.”

The Group believes the proposed changes will allow re-investment and improvements to depot-to-store operations, which in turn will benefit customers and colleagues.

“We will continue to engage with our trade unions to allay their concerns and support our colleagues through this process,” added Mr Perry.