Sacking of two disabled workers sparks prospect of a Christmas strike
DELIVERIES to hundreds of Co-op stores in London and the south-east could be hit by pre-Christmas strike action over the sacking of two disabled workers, their union warned yesterday.
Unite said the workers had been dismissed at the Co-op’s Thurrock distribution centre, where a third disabled worker also faces the sack.
The centre supplies 650 Co-op stores in London and the south-east.
Unite is carrying out a consultative ballot of 350 drivers at Thurrock, asking if they want a full ballot on industrial action. It closes next Thursday.
Unite said that the two members had been sacked for being disabled and have lost their appeals against the decision.
The union added that Co-op bosses rejected an offer to take the dispute to conciliation service Acas.
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 practised what they preached in terms of ethical and corporate responsibility and governance, and sat down and resolved this issue.”
A Co-op spokesperson claimed: “Co-op is committed to equal opportunities. We will always try to make adjustments to accommodate the needs of all colleagues and we have done so in this case.”