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Unite brands Co-op Insurance sale to 'known union-buster' an 'ethical betrayal'

Union says that jobs and Unite recognition in the workplace are at stake

UNITE has accused the Co-op of betraying its ethics by selling its insurance brand to a “known union-busting organisation.”

The union warned that the deal will cost about 200 workers their jobs and that Unite will not be recognised by the new owner, Markerstudy.

The jobs of 800 insurance workers are expected to be transferred from Manchester-based Co-op Insurance this month under transfer of undertakings protection of employment (TUPE) regulations.

TUPE regulations are supposed to protect the wages and conditions of workers whose jobs are taken over by another employer.

But a further 200 workers are expected to be made redundant, while Markerstudy has stated that it will not engage with union representatives, according to Unite.

Co-op Insurance said that its colleagues have been the “utmost priority” while choosing a buyer for the underwriting business.

“It remains the case that this sale will achieve the best outcome for our colleagues and members going forwards and provides the basis for the Co-op to significantly increase its insurance footprint across the UK,” a statement said.

But Unite questioned who was really receiving the “best outcome.”

“Two hundred job losses cannot be the best outcome,” its statement said. “Loss of union recognition is not a best outcome.”

The union said that Markerstudy “has no regard for the voice of its employees” and that the sale is “a betrayal of the ethical philosophy and principles of the co-operative movement.”

Unite North West regional secretary Ritchie James said: “The sale of Co-op Insurance to an organisation which intends to de-recognise Unite the union is outrageous and beyond belief.

“Trade unions and the co-operative movement have a long and rich history which has ensured positive industrial relations for many years. 

“The suggestion that employee voices in Manchester can be silenced through a sale to Markerstudy is inconceivable.”

Mr James said that the Co-op “cannot hide away from the consequences of its decision to sell to such an organisation.”

“Ahead of the sale, Unite has made it clear to both parties that trade union recognition is not on the table,” he said. 

“The union will not stand aside and will continue to fight to make sure our members within Co-op Insurance are protected and treated fairly.”

Unite national officer Rob MacGregor said: “Has Co-op Insurance forgotten its principles in the rush to make a quick buck? 

“This insurance company has long traded on its ethics and yet is now driving a coach and horses through the values of the co-operative movement. 

“There is only one word for this proposed sale: immoral.”

Mr MacGregor said that the union will not accept this “attack” on its members’ rights for a voice at work.

He added: “How can the Co-op agree to sell its workforce to an aggressive union-busting organisation with no regard to its founding ethos?”

Unite has written to Co-op Insurance and Markerstudy objecting to any loss of trade union recognition.

The union says that it “will oppose every compulsory redundancy that this sale will bring, and protect [its] members’ terms and conditions.”

Markerstudy did not respond to the Star’s request for comment at the time of publishing.

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