The Co-operative Food Group has once again reassured its HGV drivers that there are no plans to outsource the remainder of its operation, after the planned transfer of staff in the West Midlands to Eddie Stobart is complete.

The retailer was responding to the news that the Unite union, which represents the approximately 50 affected workers at its Coventry DC that are set to Tupe to the haulier in April, will ballot its 700 Co-op group members for industrial action.

Unite is concerned that the transfer represents "the thin edge of the wedge" and more outsourcing will occur if the plan is seen through, something the Co-op Food has previously refuted.

Andy Perry, director of logistics at The Co-operative Food, said: “We would like to reassure drivers at our other sites that there are no plans to outsource the areas of secondary transport currently operated in-house or at any of our warehouse operations. Our strategy in both the short and long term is to keep these operations in-house.

"We are disappointed that a national ballot is being organised as we have agreed that all Unite drivers will see their terms and conditions protected when they transfer to Eddie Stobart.

"In addition Eddie Stobart has also agreed to recognise Unite as the representative union at our dedicated Co-op site as well as giving clear assurances on other items raised by the trade unions and colleagues through the consultation process."

Perry said the retailer was working hard to resolve the matter and would be looking to take it to conciliatory body Acas.

"We also continue to look at new alternatives to help provide drivers with a choice over their future should they simply not want to transfer and would hope to enter into meaningful discussions on this," he added.