The Co-operative Group has written to all of its 1,000 drivers this week to reassure them the group has no plans to outsource its remaining transport operations.

It comes after the news that it is to transfer 50 Midlands-based drivers to Eddie Stobart in April.

This prompted the Unite union to threaten the Co-op with potential industrial action over the transfer, last week. The union has claimed the move could herald the Co-op’s withdrawal from all of its transport operations.

In the letter to drivers Co-operative Food Group logistics director Andy Perry said: “We believe it is important that colleagues are clear about our future intentions.

"There are no plans to outsource either the other areas of transport operated by the Co-op or any of our warehouse functions."

Perry said the decision to outsource the two sites was driven by the cost of empty running.

“We have been engaged in a lengthy period of discussion with all of our recognised trade unions regarding the proposal to outsource the trunking and primary operations.  Unfortunately, our current model cannot overcome the fundamental issue regarding the empty running of vehicles in both of these areas.

"This incurs a significant cost with no benefits. The proposed changes will allow us to re-invest and improve our core depot to store operations and as a result benefit customers and colleagues.”

However, Unite criticised the Co-op  for failing to consult with the workforce.

Adrian Jones, Unite national office for retail distribution, said: “They haven’t given us a chance to deal with it. The Co-op has not engaged either with drivers or the union to see if there are ways of reducing the cost of empty running.

“In the last few years there have been changes made at the company which have increased empty running and we believe there are opportunities within the network to significantly reduce that. I hope the business will change its approach and give us the opportunity to enter into discussions about how we can achieve this.”