Unite union says Co-op needs to reform to thrive

 
Tim Wallace
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TRADITIONALISTS at the Co-operative were under fire from workers yesterday, as Unite the Union backed major reforms to the mutual’s governance structure.

The business has stood still while rival firms have modernised, the union said in a letter, leaving the Co-op vulnerable.

Lord Myners is leading a review of the Co-op’s historic democratic structure. He wants to create a more streamlined system, and to have a board with more business knowledge.

But he has run up against opposition from board members who do not want to change the system.

The union said those board members must not be allowed to hold back the reforms if they want the firm to survive.

“On a daily basis we see the speed the sector is moving and with such pace, that unless the review is completed, there will be no chance of the Co-op being able to compete in such a cut-throat sector,” said Unite’s Adrian Jones in a letter to the Co-op’s regional boards.

“We write this letter out of necessity because our members see no alternative. They see no viable plan B coming forward that changes the governance structure that ensure we have a board in place with the knowledge, experience and skills to secure the future, not only of our members but of the Co-op as a whole.”

The union represents around 1,200 of the group’s staff.

The letter comes after Myners stressed he dearly wants the Co-op to remain a strong mutual alternative to shareholder-owned retailers.

“I believe [my model] is right for the Co-op Group, which clearly needs to strengthen its governance. How else can it ensure the oversight required for a complex organisation: one fighting to deliver for members and customers?” he wrote in the Guardian yesterday.