Union fears of fresh food shortage as Co-op delivery drivers go on strike

A Co-operative sign.  Photo: David Cheskin/PA WireA Co-operative sign.  Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire
A Co-operative sign. Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire
Co-op customers could be hit by delays to fresh milk, fruit and vegetables as drivers prepare to go on strike, according to a union.

Unite says Co-op stores nationwide will be seriously affected as the drivers walk out for 48 hours, from 00.01 on Monday.

The strike, which includes drivers based at the regional hub in Chester-Le-Street, will be accompanied by a continuous work-to-rule.

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However, the Co-op management have disputed that availability of produce will be affected.

A spokesperson said: “Product availability will be unaffected by the proposed strike and we are in talks with the union at ACAS tomorrow to resolve the matter.”

The dispute centres on the decision by the Co-op group to transfer 87 Coventry-based drivers to Eddie Stobart, which sparked the overwhelming vote for strike action by drivers across the UK.

Workers are concerned about the implications of future outsourcing of their jobs on pay and employment conditions and Unite union says the majority of the Coventry drivers are considering accepting severance package.

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Unite is due to hold talks with the Co-op management under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas tomorrow.

Unite wants the talks to investigate the comprehensive list of suggestions by the Coventry shop stewards to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Unite national officer for retail distribution Adrian Jones said: "The 48-hour strike will be felt by Co-op customers across the UK. The Co-op has the delivery of fresh produce, such as milk and fruit and veg, as a top business priority in the battle for supermarket sales. This will be severely disrupted with the knock-on impact for its reputation with customers."

Other Co-op driver members striking are based at Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland; Castlewood, north Derbyshire; Inverness; Newhouse, Lanarkshire; Plymouth and Thurrock in Essex.