Co-operative Funeralcare and the GMB: a response

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Here is a response from Phil Edwards, Head of Public Relations at The Co-operative, to the stance which The Good Funeral Guide has taken on Co-operative Funeralcare’s derecognition of the GMB union, which I reproduce unmediated. You should read it together with the statement by the GMB.

Dear Mr Cowling,

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to comments made by yourself and Phil Davies from the GMB union in The Good Funeral Guide.

It is now two years since we took the decision to derecognise the GMB. The decision was taken because we need to work with unions which operate across the Group’s range of businesses and have an in-depth understanding of the overall commercial backdrop against which it operates. The GMB had the smallest membership of Funeralcare’s three main non-specialist unions and unlike both Unite and USDAW, had no significant representation in other Co-operative Group businesses. Whilst it is the case that UCATT has fewer members in Funeralcare and does not have members elsewhere in the Group, a sizeable proportion of its membership is made up of stonemasons who are not represented by any other union.

Whilst some 150 funeral workers in Co-operative Funeralcare are in membership of the GMB, more than seven times that number are members of Usdaw within Funeralcare. Usdaw has around 20,000 members across the Co-operative Group.

We fully respect the rights of all of employees to belong to any trade union of their choosing and continue to provide ‘check-off’ facilities in respect of union subscriptions for GMB members. Mr Davies’ claims regarding victimisation of staff are entirely without foundation

The decision was taken with the full backing of the Group’s board and remains final. It is also worth noting that the engagement score of The Co-operative Funeralcare’s staff – a key measure of their commitment to the business – has steadily increased over the last four years and now matches the high level set in other trading sectors of The Co-operative Group. Union membership within Funeralcare is also at an all time high.

Yours sincerely

Phil Edwards

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