The Co-Operative is being taken to court for unfair dismissal by a former senior manager who claims she was fired for whistleblowing.
Kath Harmeston, Procurement Director at The Co-Operative from April to September 2014, will be seeking over £5m in damages at the tribunal starting this week.
“We intend to fully and robustly defend our decision to dismiss Kath Harmeston at the upcoming tribunal,” said Allan Leighton, Chairman at The Co-Op. “We dismissed her because she acted in a manner which was not in keeping with the importance and seniority of her role, nor the values and principles of The Co-op.”
However, Harmeston claims she was dismissed for highlighting corporate malpractice and problems with company governance. The full details of her allegations are set to be revealed during the two week hearing.
When Harmeston joined the chain she was expected to help cut costs. In 2013, issues with its banking division led The Co-Op to post a £2.5bn loss. It returned to profit in April by selling off its pharmacy and farming arms as well as improving its retail output.
Before joining The Co-Op, Harmeston spent five years as Head of Procurement at the Royal Mail. During that time she oversaw a £650m cost cutting drive as the company moved into the private sector. This included cutting catering subsidies, and switching to a cheaper brand of Chinese bicycle which would cost the company only £45 per unit instead of £360.