Unite slams Co-op insurance sale to ‘union busting’ firm

Unite the union has expressed anger at the decision of Manchester-based Co-op Insurance to sell the entire business to Kent-based Markerstudy, which the union claimed is a “known union busting organisation.”

Manchester-based Co-op Group said in January it agreed to sell its insurance underwriting business, CIS General Insurance Limited, to Markerstudy for about £185 million.

Unite said the decision to sell “this heavily unionised organisation” to a company “which has no regard” for the voice of its employees is “a betrayal of the ethical philosophy and principles of the Co-operative movement.”

Unite said the proposed sale later this month will result in around 200 job losses and “the loss of independent representation for the remaining 800 staff.”

Unite claimed that Markerstudy has stated that it will not engage with union representatives.

Ritchie James, Unite regional secretary for the North-West region 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.

“The Co-op cannot hide away from the consequences of their 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.

“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.”

Rob MacGregor Unite National officer 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.

“Unite will not accept this attack on our members’ rights for a voice at work.

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

Unite said the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) transfer of the workforce is due to take place during August.

“Unite has written to both Co-op Insurance and Markerstudy setting out objections to the loss of trade union recognition within this sale,” said the union.

“Unite will oppose every compulsory redundancies that this sale will bring and protect our members’ terms and conditions.”

A spokesperson for Co-op Insurance said: “Our colleagues have been our utmost priority when choosing a suitable buyer for the sale of our insurance 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 spokesperson for Markerstudy said: “During the course of our purchase of Co-op Insurance we have engaged with representatives from Unite to share and discuss proposals to minimise the impact of the transaction on Co-op colleagues.

“We have been committed to considering all alternatives and through ongoing communication with the Co-op leadership team, we have successfully reduced the number of compulsory redundancies.

“We have provided a voluntary redundancy scheme, outplacement assistance, confidential support and transparent communication.”

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Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.