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.