HGV drivers employed by the Co-op at its West Thurrock distribution depot have begun balloting for industrial action over the ‘appalling treatment’ of their disabled colleagues.
The workers, who are members of Unite and who deliver to 600 Co-op stores in London and the south east, are extremely angry that three of their colleagues have been dismissed or are facing dismissal due to their disabilities.
The disabled drivers have for many years been provided with work they have been able to undertake. However this work is no longer available because of outsourcing or internal reorganisation.
Unite has argued that the workers should have been made redundant. The local Co-op management rejected this approach and instead opted to use a capability process which resulted in two of the workers being sacked and the third expecting the same treatment in the near future.
“The Co-op has acted in an appalling manner,” said Unite regional officer Paul Travers. “We have argued that the disabled drivers should have been made redundant because their revised duties were agreed under the Equalities Act as reasonable adjustments. The company knows the drivers are unable to deliver to stores and has been happy for them to undertake other driving roles, when it suited it and now it just wants to discard them.”
Unite are initially undertaking a consultative ballot of the workforce before proceeding to a full industrial action ballot. If the matter is not resolved then Unite anticipates that industrial action will occur in the weeks preceding Halloween and Bonfire night, which will cause widespread disruption. It could also cause problems in the pre-Christmas period.
Paul Travers added, “Unite remain available to resolve this matter; however the Co-op just keep telling us they have acted lawfully — a point that Unite and our members fundamentally disagree with.”