Financial Advisers working at the Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) launched a two-day national strike this week over new contracts that could leave them 30 percent worse off.
The 2,000 advisers voted by a majority of two to one to walk out on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week after being offered the option to sign the new contracts or be sacked by the CIS.
The advisers held a rally in Manchester, where many of them work, on Tuesday and lobbied CIS chiefs.
“These hard working advisers have taken this action as a last resort after months of talks,” says Merdy Briggs, an official of the Usdaw union that represents the CIS workers.
“The Co-op, which make so much of its ethical trading policy, has offered our members a simple choice — lose money or be sacked.
“These advisers have made millions for the Co-op and the overwhelming vote for strike action proves how angry they are about the cavalier way they’ve been treated by a company that claims to be a moral leader in the way it treats its staff.”
CIS managers say the proposed changes are intended to give the company a chance of competing in the increasingly competitive insurance market.
But Usdaw officials reply that the demolition of a hard-working workforce will not achieve that aim.
“This is the first time in 35 years that financial advisers have taken action because, at the end of the day, they want CIS to be successful too—but not at their expense,” says Merdy Briggs. “We have tried every possible avenue to avoid this dispute.”
The union is now calling for binding arbitration to settle the dispute. But this process may come out too close to management’s view. It would be better to continue the campaign until the new contracts are withdrawn.