The Co-operative group and Atos

Welfare campaigners have recently come across this July 2009 announcement on the Atos website.

The Co-operative Group and the Co-operative Financial Services choose Atos Healthcare

London, 22 July 2009
Atos Healthcare, the number one occupational health provider in the UK1 and a business division of Atos Origin, today announced that it has won a contract with the Co-operative Group (tCG) and Cooperative Financial Services (CFS).

Under the new contract, Atos Healthcare will provide occupational healthcare services for the 82,000 employees who serve around 10 million customers a week through food, pharmacy, travel, funeral care, motor dealerships, legal and financial services. Atos Healthcare will provide pre-employment referrals and absence management including physiotherapy and workstation assessments to help improve employee wellbeing and reduce absence.

Atos Healthcare are the company that carry out Work Capability Assessments for the government to determine whether people are too sick to work and will receive benefits (Employment Support Allowance) or will be told that they are fit to work and abandoned on Job Seekers Allowance at a time when we are desperately short of jobs. People claiming Job Seekers Allowance and people receiving Employment Support Allowance but considered able to return to work in the near future are sent to work placements and flagship government schemes like The Work Programme. Assessments are wrong much of the time and people are dying because of them. More recently Atos Healthcare have also been awarded the contract to assess people for the new Personal Independence Payments which will replace DLA. As a result Atos have been the subject of much protest.

Many companies who use forced work from unpaid workers who receive JSA and ESA have been subject to boycotts by people revolted by what they see. At the same time we are in the midst of a global financial meltdown caused by international banks and so banks too are despised. The Co-operative Group touts itself as ethical and has been seen as one of the best alternatives for banking and grocery shopping and other services. Like many people, I shop and bank with The Co-op for these reasons and so I am disapointed to find that some of the money I spend with Co-op goes to Atos.

When asked via Twitter about their connection with Atos The Co-op replied:

I personally will stick with the Co-op for now but as a member I will try my best to put pressure on them to dump Atos. If that doesn’t work I will boycott them too. However, another worrying thing has emerged today. This morning a former Co-op bank employee told me that:

At the bank they stressed they weren’t ethical but a bank with an ethical investment policy, an entirely different proposition.

This raises whole new problems which I will investigate urgently.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

7 thoughts on “The Co-operative group and Atos”

  1. When employed by a company to find someone unfit to work through illness/disability ATOS will do so. A few weeks later, that same person with the same illness/disability could then find themselves on ESA being assessed by ATOS on behalf of DWP as now being fit to work.

    With ATOS Assessment Centres performing miracles like this in town near you – they’ll soon be places of pilgrimage!

  2. Yes I too was horrified to read about this Atos contract. I’ve banked with the Co-op since the 1980’s and had nothing but praise for them until now. I love the whole idea of the Co-operative movement, and there is no doubt that they fund really good social welfare and community projects. Like you, Stephen, I’ll stick with them for now, but will be making my feelings known in no uncertain terms! Let’s hope they get out of this contract as soon as possible. If not, there is always Triodos.

  3. Once you’ve boycotted the entire Co-operative Group, I’d be interested to know exactly where you intend you bank and shop, and what ethical criteria you are applying that deems your alternative consumer choices “better”. There are some “deep green” options as they are called in environmental circles, but they are generally small, specialist, expensive and have a very minimal reach. I have very little idea about most of the occupational health arrangements of the businesses I deal with. The co-operative group is at least must more open and honest than most. The Co-op has always under-rated for its ethics for decades (usually because it also sells tobacco and fossil fuels etc so things like the Ethical Comsumer Index and other such measures always make it score poorly). It has only recently begun to actually emphasise it’s ownership difference once again, and there is no getting away from the ability for a co-operative to be able to take a longer term more sustainable view rather than demand short term shareholder profits. Be careful not to storm off in a paddy and end up spending money with far worse organisations. If you do explore Triodos, for example, do bear in mind that it is a Dutch bank and not covered under the financial services compensation scheme (the dutch protection scheme applies instead). It also generally pays shareholders better than depositing savers and doesn’t offer personal banking, just saving. The Ecology Building Society offer similar, but it UK-based and fully member owned. Most credit unions use the banking services of The Co-op so I guess you wouldn’t be interested there, either.

    1. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen an all-out rant from you Stuart. Did you actually read what I wrote? I don’t intend to boycott co-op until I’ve given them a chance. Being the most ethical option doesn’t give them a free pass to be a bit unethical though. Don’t you find the comment about the bank not being ethical even slightly disturbing?

      1. Sorry, not intended as rant. Certainly didn’t mean it to sound like one. Even I would admit that the Co-operative Group are far from “the most ethical option” but I would have probably thought that finding an alternative that doesn’t end up walking into all sorts of other issues would be difficult. It would just be down to your personal choice on how important it is to avoid a company that trades with Atos. I think I’m still of the opinion that what we actually buy, rather than just where we happen to buy it from, it actually of more significance. The vasy vast majority of the money I give to my local Co-op when I do my shopping goes to their suppliers. I’d still try to avoid Nestle, for example, whether in Co-op, Morrisons or Tesco. Big “brands” as it were will always be a relatively easy target. As an aside, I have a feeling that your local Co-op shop will in fact be owned by Midcounties Co-operative if I’m not mistaken (I could be wrong) – they are likely to have their own arrangements for occupational health. Does that make any difference?

  4. Pah, nothing surprises me anymore, all I can do is boycott the store and make the staff aware

  5. I think there’s a real need to name and shame the organisations using Atos. Co-op aren’t the only organisation harping on about ethics then using their services!! The more orgs named the more they’ll be dropped.

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