Staff fearful after Co-op stores' sale

WORKERS at two Northumberland Co-op stores were last night facing an uncertain future after it was announced that the shops would be put up for sale.

WORKERS at two Northumberland Co-op stores were last night facing an uncertain future after it was announced that the shops would be put up for sale.

Stores in Haltwhistle and Amble are to be put on the market following the recent merger of the Co-operative Group and United Co-operatives.

The stores will be sold as going concerns, with staff keeping their jobs, but the news has still caused some concern among workers.

The Amble store employs three full- time and 19 part-time staff with the Haltwhistle store having 13 full-time and 15 part-time staff.

The store in Aesica Road, Haltwhistle, will close while the Main Street store will remain open.

David Hardy, district councillor for Haltwhistle, said that news of the sale had travelled fast in the town.

He said: “Our concern is for the employment of the staff and you hope for a quick sale.

“The town council did ask for assurances when the Co-op bought the store in Aesica Road and we were told that they could run together. Really you just hope for a quick sale to the right people and for the staff to be looked after.”

The stores are closing because of Office of Fair Trading competition laws. A spokesman for The Co-operative said: “As a result of the merger between The Co-operative Group and United Co-operatives, the Office of Fair Trading has identified competition concerns in a number of areas and we must therefore sell eight food stores including the shops at Queen Street, Amble and Aesica Road, Haltwhistle in order to address the OFT’s concerns.

“The sales process will be completed over the coming months and the employees concerned will transfer to the new owners under their existing terms and conditions.”

Jeff Watson, a county councillor for Amble West, said: “It is of great concern and the number one priority is that people keep their jobs – any loss of jobs would be a disaster.

“Amble is completely dominated by Co-ops – there are three different Co-ops and that’s all. There is a great deal of concern about the choice of shops in Amble and the second priority is to ensure that there is a choice of shops and that there’s no monopoly in the town.”

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