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Co-operative Pharmacy employees rail against pension reductions

The Co-operative Pharmacy says its contributions to employee pensions reflect the market

Employer contributions have been reduced to a maximum of 6 per cent for employees and 10 per cent for managers following the takeover by Bestway, which the Co-operative Pharmacy says "reflects the market"


Co-operative Pharmacy employees have slammed a reduction in employer contributions to their pensions following its takeover by Bestway.

Employees expressed disappointment at the move, with one describing the pension consultation between the Co-operative Pharmacy and trade unions as a "sham" that had left a "lot of people very upset" about the new scheme.

The Co-operative Pharmacy said the new scheme "reflects the market" and one of the unions involved noted that, while it was "disappointed" with and had challenged the terms, the new scheme was "more generous than required" by legislation.

Employees were given a briefing pack prepared by trade unions USDAW and NACO and the Co-operative Pharmacy, in wh ich they were informed about the new pension scheme following Bestway's successful bid for the business in July.

Employees were informed they could earn a maximum contribution of 6 per cent from their employer once their employment with the Co-operative Group transferred to Bestway on November 2.

Managers could earn 8 or 10 per cent, which the company said was necessary to attract the "best people" into the business. It added that the new arrangements were "comparable to and in many cases better than" competitor companies.

A Co-operative Pharmacy employee who wished to remain anonymous told C+D that maximum employer pension contributions had been reduced from previous levels of 16 per cent. The Co-operative Pharmacy confirmed that 16 per cent was the maximum employer contribution for "a certain set of employees" under the old scheme. "Under this [new] scheme those same employees would receive up to a 6% contribution," a spokesperson said.

A second employee told the C+D Salary Survey 2015 that the pension cut made it "hard to warm to the new company" and commented that the future under Bestway did not look "very bright". Another said employees had been told little about the new owners and said news of the pension scheme was "not good".

USDAW, a representative of workers in the retail and service sector, told C+D it was "disappointed" with the changes and had challenged the proposals for the scheme. "It was always the case that as soon as the Co-operative [Group] sold their pharmacy business, employee's pensions arrangements were under threat because [the law] limits protection on company pension schemes," USDAW national officer John Gorle said.

He noted, however, that the new scheme was "more generous than required" by legislation and added: "It is important to note that employees have not lost the benefits accrued under the old scheme, the changes affect future service only."

A pension spokesperson for the Co-operative Pharmacy said: "Our new pension scheme reflects the market. During our sale to Bestway, we worked side by side in consultation with Unions to agree a sustainable and robust pension provision that would be economically viable for the long term future of our business.

"We're sorry to hear that some of our colleagues are disappointed, but we believe that our pension provision is comparable with many large private companies."

NACO, the trade union for the Co-operative Gropu and other co-operative organisations, told C+D it could not comment. 

What do you think of the changes to the Co-operative Pharmacy's pension scheme? 

We want to hear your views, but please express them in the spirit of a constructive, professional debate. For more information about what this means, please click here to see our community principles and information

Er Ds, Superintendent

this is just the starters, i know how bestway work and they will scrape the meat off the bones.

Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional

This is why the market should be opened as proved by this company. They can do what ever they like as many of their Pharmacies are in places with very limited competition.

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

There must have been a reason why co op sold their business. Now its bestways job to make the cuts to save the business. In this day and age cuts have to be made to keep the boat afloat.

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

""save the business"" and ""keep the boat afloat""

Don't think so. Co-op Pharmacy business was not at risk, it was forced to sell this profit making arms to cover for the losses made by their other Big Bad Boy called The Bank. The simple mathematics is, if you cant earn more then cut on your outgoings, not a brainer. Only difference is, had Co-Op taken that decision there would have been a hue and cry and may be some so called unions making a big fuss. This was an opportunity for the new Management to cut the extra spendings, which would definitely be agreed in guise that they are saving the co-op from sinking. Also the jobs were at risk, so it was clearly an opportunistic step taken. Next 12 months lookout for more such steps in cost reduction rather than income generation.

Brian Austen, Senior Management

Bestway are only doing what Co-op should have done. Making the hard decisions necessary to manage a company so that it is sustainable and profitable. They are offering employers contributions that are better than most businesses. 16% is very high, even higher than many receive in the NHS, apart from GPs who have to pay their own employers and employees contributions based on NHS income. I think it is too early to judge Bestway based on this decision.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Don't grow old or get sick.........we're all in it tohether!! Ye right if you went to Eaton and your a distant cousin of the queen whether bar standard sinister is on your coat of arms or not lolx

C A, Community pharmacist

Why weren't the PDA involved as a union?

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

I think that despite their best efforts they are not like Unite, Usdaw or GMB lets face it. Gig fish in a small pond as they do not have the capacity.

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

The fun has already started at Bestway. Haha. Remember all those industry experts hailing the coming of the messiah, sorry I mean Bestway. Good luck all.

Dave Downham, Manager

"Acquiring company looks to cut costs shocker!"

Frederick David Roberts, Other healthcare professional

If it was doing so well under its recent owners that they were in a position to provide generously why do you think they sold out? That is not to say that I don't sympathise.

[email protected], Pre-reg graduate

First it would be pension, then it would be the salary then it would be the jobs ......... this is how Bestway is going to milk the co-op cow till its dry. Told ya.

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