CHRISTMAS deliveries to 650 Co-op stories in London and the south east could be hit, if a dispute over the sacking of two disabled workers at its Thurrock distribution centre escalates, Unite, the country’s largest union, has warned.
Unite’s 345 drivers at Thurrock are currently voting as to whether they wish to go to a full-scale industrial action ballot in defence of two sacked colleagues and a third facing a similar fate. The consultative ballot closes on Thursday 21 September.
Unite said that the two members were sacked for being disabled by Co-op bosses in Thurrock and had now lost their appeals against dismissal.
Unite regional officer Paul Travers said: “Our members are furious at the treatment meted out to these two colleagues by a hard-hearted management
“The Co-op makes much song-and-dance about being an ethical employer, but here we have two workers with disabilities, who have worked for many years in the same role, being sacked.
“If Unite doesn’t achieve an acceptable resolution to this dispute, members will be balloted for industrial action, including strike action.
“This would create huge delivery problems for more than 650 stores in London, Essex, Kent and East Sussex in the run-up to Christmas and would result in the subsequent loss of business during that critical seasonal trading period.
“All we want is for these members and future similar situations to be treated in a caring and respectful fashion.
“We have offered to go to the conciliation service Acas, but the company has refused. We can only assume the Co-op is not confident that the unfair dismissal of these members because they are disabled will stand up to the forensic scrutiny of neutral organisations.
“It is about time the bosses practiced what they preached in terms of ethical and corporate responsibility and governance, and sat down and resolved this issue.”
Should, as expected, the consultative ballot be in favour of an industrial action ballot, voting papers are expected to drop onto members’ doormats by the beginning of October.