Union 'not consulted' about Cook Co-op merger

Union 'not consulted' about Cook Co-op merger

The trade union representing staff at the Co-operative Group has expressed dismay at the company’s failure to consult it ahead of receiving Competition Commission clearance for the travel retail merger with Thomas Cook.

The commission gave a final go-ahead to the deal to merge The Co-operative Travel, Midlands Co-operative and Thomas Cook retail division on Tuesday, after announcing provisional clearance on July 21.

The deal will see the creation of a new joint venture with more than 1,200 shops and in excess of 9,000 staff. It will be run and majority-owned by Thomas Cook, with most of the 9,000 staff from Cook and the Co-ops required to transfer employment.

Shop workers’ union Usdaw said it had no warning that the announcement was imminent.

Usdaw national officer Sharon Ainsworth said: “We have concerns about whether stores will have to shut and we are not happy about the fact we don’t know more.

“The Co-op did not consult us and that is unusual. I deal with the company day to day and the unions were not told.”

The Co-operative Travel head office employees at Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, and in Manchester will face a choice between a transfer within the Co-op, a move to Thomas Cook headquarters in Peterborough or redundancy.

Ainsworth said: “Everything has been on hold since the merger was referred to the Competition Commission. There have been no talks. We had expected a decision in October, so the announcement was quite a shock.

She said the Co-operative Group had now agreed to a meeting with union officials.

Both the Co-operative Group and Thomas Cook have declined to give details of the joint venture and staff-transfer process ahead of consulting staff, but the process is likely to begin within six weeks.

Thomas Cook staff are represented by a separate union - the transport union TSSA.

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