Staff at the Co-op’s only UK coffin factory are taking further strike action in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.
Unite the union confirmed coffinmakers at the factory in Govan, Glasgow, began industrial action on Wednesday which will run continuously through to January 16.
It means the workers have entered their fourth month of strike action.
The union claims Co-op bosses have failed to make an acceptable offer to resolve the long running dispute.
Members also claim the Funeralcare company spent more than £1m last year purchasing coffins from third party suppliers at a time when the row could have been resolved for “a fraction of this cost”.
The Co-op has strongly insisted this figure is inaccurate, and said it has always sourced coffins through third party suppliers as they offer bespoke ranges such as willow or engraved, and different sizes, which the factory is not set up to produce.
The company said the spending figure quoted by Unite has nothing to do with the ongoing dispute.
About 50 workers are involved in the strike action after they were offered a 4% pay rise for 2022 and 5% for 2023, which was rejected as inflation has soared to a 40-year high.
Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary, said: “It’s simply disgraceful that the Co-op, an employer that can easily afford to raise pay, would rather waste £1m on alternative products and see this dispute stretch into its fourth month than pay its workforce fairly.
“Unite’s members are resolute and they continue to show their determination in this fight. The Co-op’s management is clearly trying to break its own loyal workforce, but Unite will back our members all the way in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”
Willie Thomson, Unite industrial officer, added: “The Co-op’s claims of showing a better way of doing business and being a fairer employer are in the rubbish bin.
“Management are currently forking out more cash to third party coffin suppliers rather than allocating a fraction of that money towards solving this bitter dispute. That’s the current state of Co-op values.
“We repeat our call that it’s time for chief executive, Shirine Khoury-Haq, to become directly involved if they have any interest in salvaging their reputation.
“The strike action will also continue beyond this week because our members are unbroken and they are determined to fight until they get what they deserve.”
A spokesperson for the Co-op said: “We are disappointed to be facing further strike action relating to pay from colleagues in our coffin factory, particularly given our recent pay offer, which represented a significant increase for colleagues. We were disappointed that Unite chose not to even ballot their members on this offer.
“As a major national employer of almost 60,000 colleagues that is facing into high inflation and increased costs, we have worked hard to balance the requests from our 59 employees at the coffin factory with our wider colleague population.
“The colleagues at our coffin factory are highly valued. They have received annual pay increases, and production bonuses.
“Furthermore, this offer has been made at a time where we have had to make some tough decisions in terms of reducing roles across our business.
“We would encourage our coffin factory colleagues to give our proposals their full consideration and for Unite to ballot their members upon the offer that remains on the table.
“We are able to maintain a strong supply of coffins and can offer full reassurance that the strike has no impact on our ability to support to bereaved families.”