Open letter to George Tinning, Managing Director, Co-operative Funeralcare #4

Charles 19 Comments

Dear Mr Tinning,

Woo, sorry! Caught you unawares? Thought we’d lost interest? No, we’re not going away. And not just us. There’s the GMB union, too. As you know, they’re disappointed in you for derecognising them in 2007. You can read their own campaign page here.

How on earth can a co-operative banish a trade union?

In the aftermath of the Dispatches Undercover Undertaker exposé you addressed your ‘colleagues’ and told them that you were going to seek the advice of the NAFD and find out if they could suggest any improvements in your levels of service. How’s that going? We don’t know of any statement from the NAFD about this. Come on, you must have some influence with those guys.

The word on the street is that you think it’s all going to blow over, the storm that followed that programme. Is that what you really think? Is that why you have kept so quiet?

Is that why you have never had the courtesy to reply to any of our letters to you?

If so, then, strategically, that you’re making a mistake. Consumer scrutiny of Funeralworld is going to intensify. As you know, ITV is making its own documentary about the industry. There’s another storm coming very soon. Okay, it may not be Funeralcare at the epicentre this time, but it’ll churn up memories. Worse still, the reputational damage to the entire industry may well be grave. When consumers start to see a pattern, they’re going to reckon all funeral directors are  as bad as each other. There are nasty times a-coming – possibly very nasty times indeed.

There’s going to be renewed call for regulation, isn’t there? Which brings us back to the NAFD. What price their reassurances about the efficacy of self-regulation now?

Mr Tinning, do you begin to recognise the grave damage you have done to the many decent people who work in this industry? Including your own ‘colleagues’?

Good funeral directors are governed by values, not greed. You are the corporate player that lays claim to the values of the Rochdale Pioneers – the highest values there are. The other big players – Dignity, FSP, LM – play by the rules of capitalism. They’re not very good at it, and they’ll fail, but at least they do not pretend to be other than they are. Did you read the comments on this blog written by EX CO OP EMPLOYEE? Read them here and here. What do you say?

Mr Tinning, the governing purpose of the Good Funeral Guide is to sing praises, not dig dirt. It’s sad, weary work, belabouring your organisation. Around 40,000 people visit this site every month from all over the English-speaking world. They all wonder why on earth you do not reply to our letters.

It’s time you acknowledged your accountability and had your say.

With all best wishes,



    1. Charles


      well from my understanding the role of operative cum bearer has always been lowly paid in ‘this industry’, it’s a very low wage for some of the less than pleasant removals that arise

      of course f’care wouldn’t overly be fussed at this, the ‘operatives’ I feel are simply something necessary, the big money is to be made by ‘the arrangers’ yes that’s where cash is king, they can really bring home the wonga


  1. Charles

    Low wages = big profits. It’s a nice business model they have, the £52 million annual surplus had to be earned from somewhere. We know where eh Charles?

    Keep it up. The Union recognition failure says a lot about them.

  2. Charles

    @ TonyB, yes those figures are typical of the profession. The Funeralcare rates are towards the top end for those roles.

    @ Mr XX and Charles, Funeralcare do recognise other unions should that not be mentioned as well, so as to give a balanced view?

  3. Charles

    Fair point, James — I hadn’t meant to appear unbalanced but I can see how that impression might have been given. The Funeralcare line we have received is here:

    The response to Funeralcare’s action was: The Co-op was banned by the Glastonbury Festival in 2007 and from the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in 2008. It has been condemned by the TUC for its victimisation and harassment of shop stewards, and excluded from all involvement with, or sponsorship of, TUC activities.

    The GMB view is:

    The overall picture is murky. When I drilled down into all this it was clear that union solidarity was not to be found.

  4. Charles

    mmmm, Charles

    Tinning G isn’t helping his case (here) at all by the constant refusal to comment

    naturally he’s hoping that it will all blow over but it’s such a serious and fundamental problem that this shouldn’t be allowed to happen

    didn’t one GT make a comment that the selling policies highlighed in said C4 prog were unknown to him? rightly that’s turned out to be fairly hollow…………

    taxi time for Tinning, Kershaw and the rest of the f’care senior management, possibly?


  5. Charles

    @ Charles, I appreciate that there is some history with Funeralcare and the GMB in particular. At one point it was alleged by the GMB that managers were persuading staff to joint a different uinion, perhaps one that was recognised? Not consistent with being anti union but hardly ideal.

    The latest situation according to the GMB website is that they are recognised again and indeed their membership within Funeralcare has grown by 20% since 2011. Mind you this situation sdeems to have come about in a convouluted way via TUPE regulations.

    Charles, I’m sorry to hijack the thread which is really about the open letters and follow up to the documentary.

  6. Charles

    James, thank you very much for pointing this out. As I understand it this is a very recent development because it is not long since I spoke to the GMB and was told that the campaign was still very much under way.

    Anyway, the whole point of this blog is to explore ideas and get facts right, so you were not hijacking at all, you were putting us straight, which is a valuable service. Thank you.

    Apols, btw, that your comment did not appear immediately. It got stuck in spam because of the hyperlinks. Normally access is unmonitored for all and nothing is ever not published.

  7. Charles

    The public doesn’t need a ‘regulated’ industry. What the public needs is one firm of solicitors with expertise on the relevant subject which operate on a conditional fee arrangement asking the public if they have ever been injured by an undertaker… or a public servant.

  8. Charles

    All praise to the GFG toilers in the mire for trying to keep up the pressure. The gap between the business model/target driven people we saw in the C4 doc, and the local Co-op FDs round here is enormous. The poor saps graft away doing their best, thinking that they are much better inside F’care than soldiering on alone. If bad times lie ahead, they will be the victims of the sort of F’care malpractice shown in the doc – in a different way from the families who have suffered from errors and insensitivities, but victims nonetheless.

    It really is long past time for Mr Tinning to respond to this blog.

  9. Charles

    ………..those keenly anticipating a response from one Mr GT might be interested in hearing that he appeared before the relevant Parliamentiary Group before the Summer recess

    having carried that out and no doubt supported by the Coop’s vast PR machine, it’s more than way overdue for him to reply in considerable detail to the number of issues raised in this blog

    yours (and still hoping)


  10. Charles

    I don’t know that discussions of the APPG are made public. I emailed the Chair, Lorely Burt, and invited her to invite a consumer advocate like the NDC. No reply. It does make our tribunes of the people look bad, this huggermuggering with big cheeses in the industry. But let’s be fair, there are perfectly proper people like Nigel Lymn Rose on it and I am not suggesting impropriety, merely lack of balance.

    1. Charles

      Huggermuggering’s the word Charles. What you can be certain of is that the APPG (secretariat privately provided by a lobbying firm, and paid for by the NAFD) will not have been subject to even the mildly forensic probing of the select committees.

      Of course it does prompt the question about the NAFDs role in all of this. Does it have one? Is that more than to lie low and say nowt till the storm blows over?

  11. Charles

    To my knowledge nothing that occurs in meetings of this APPG group is made public…unless of course it is to lobby ministers such as Steve Webb to make changes to legislation which is portrayed by supporters of the group to be in the public’s interest! Public interest my eye! Many of its members which are Lords and MP’s sit on other APPG groups. I wonder how the MP’s find the time to be of assistance to their constituents. Members of this group do not want to meet with people like you and me Charles. They are not advocates for the funeral consumer, they are advocates for the funeral trade.

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