The board’s management of the Mullumbimby Rural Coop has been called into question by shareholders, who have called a public meeting for this Wednesday, 28 April, at the Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club at 6pm to seek explanations from the board over the running and management of the coop.
Dissatisfaction from shareholders and employees has been building since the change of chair of the board in July 2020 from Maurie Maher to Ross Tucker, which has changed the focus of the business according to some shareholders.
Stock not being available, failure to send out or accept payment of invoices, differences between the advertised board prices for fuel and the price on the bowser, accreditation of workers for sale of some products, and low morale are some of the key issues that the board has been asked to address at the meeting.
Madeline Holmes had worked in the office at the Coop for 15 years but decided to resign after the board brought in a general manager to deal with regulatory and compliance issues.
‘I used to basically run the office by myself. We [with Tony who was the Coop manager for over 30 years] weren’t informed of the “regulatory and compliance issues”; we were just left in the dark and they brought in a general manager,’ Ms Holmes told The Echo.
‘I would have thought I would be aware what those issues were as I was the person running the office. If there were issues that Tony was aware of we would have worked together to fix them.
Direction of Coop questioned
‘The issues that have been raised with me are that there is no stock, that management are now inaccessible. There are always going to be some rough patches when they implement something new. But personally, I think they have lost sight of what the Coop is about and they are on a mission to make it more corporate like another Bunnings. To me that’s the wrong direction,’ said Ms Holmes.
‘You can’t compete with Bunnings and the Coop should be there for its members. Instead they now have this top-heavy management, there’s a chain across the top of the stairs, and you can’t talk to the manager unless you have an appointment. It was the sort of place that you went to get advice but now you have so many casuals you don’t have anyone there who knows about the products.’
This sense of disillusionment with the new direction of the Coop was reflected in comments by a long-term member of the Coop, who didn’t want to be named, who told The Echo, ‘I have been a shareholder for some 40 years and watched Tony and Maddie build and expand the Coop from humble beginnings to the well-organised and reliable retailer it was till recently. There have been friendly staff with helpful advice, stock always kept at reasonable levels, willingness to obtain more exotic items, and sensible pricing.
‘The Coop is a standalone entity and will never have the buying power and bulk ordering available to Bunnings or even to Norco with its multiple outlets. I doubt though that Mullum people want a Bunnings and are more than happy to have their own Coop.
‘No-one seems to know why Tucker has led these changes. It has led to a shutdown website, items out of stock, bills not sent out, no friendly helpful advice from the now-disgruntled staff. What is the point?’
The new chair of the Coop board, Ross Tucker, declined to comment on the issues raised by shareholders but told The Echo that he and the board would be attending the meeting on Wednesday to address the concerns of shareholders transparently, but that ‘There is a fair bit of misinformation running around’.
Organisers of the meeting, not the board, have invited all shareholders and concerned Coop users to attend.