Co-op “Lions Led By Donkeys” £2Billion Loss

27 Feb 2014

GMB, the union for funeral workers employed by the Co-op, responds to reports that losses of £2billion will be announced next month.

Paul Clarke, National Organiser for Co-operatives said “GMB has been consistently highly critical of a management team who alienated both society members and their own staff. In 2008 we said of the Co-op that it was “another case of lions led by donkeys”. We said the leadership thought ‘Ethics’ was a county east of London. They made the disastrous decisions in 2007 to attack their own workers in their funeral arm when they withdraw negotiating rights for GMB who had been recognised within their Funeralcare business for 110 years. GMB criticisms have been wholly vindicated.

Since then there has been grandstanding with people like Peter Marks, Len Wardle, Paul Flowers and Moira Lees acting like a executives of an FTSE 100 company rather than behaving as they should have done as bosses of a member owned democratic organisation. We saw the sound bites of ‘Ethical Business’, ‘Co-operative Difference’, ‘Co-operative Revolution’ and ‘Values and Principles’. They even have a V&P Committee. Whilst all the time executives were lording it up and became fixated with trying to become a major bank. The disastrous takeover of Britannia Building Society which was effectively bust and their obsession of taking over 571 Lloyds branches have been major contributors in almost bankrupting the whole society and as a direct result the Co-operative bank is now 70% owned by venture capitalists.

Now we see them going for a fire sale of long fought for assets. They plan to sell shops, farms and pharmacies, threats of mass redundancies and a reduction in staff hours is also proposed. The clothing and motor business has already gone and Sunwin Securities is also up for sale. The answer from the top is a survey with leading questions which seeks further to sever links with its core supporters and their families. The Rochdale Pioneers must be spinning in their graves as they see the society they founded almost run into the ground by the same type of spivs and chancers the Co-op was founded to oppose.

GMB as the union for the Co-operative funeral workers calls upon the board to re-discover its founding principles. It should go back to its roots and embrace its core supporters. It should make peace with both GMB and TUC. It should stop pretending to be Tesco Mark 2’.”

Contact Paul Clarke 0207 391 6723 or GMB Press office 07921 289880 or 07974 251823