• Top executives set to appear at two-week employment tribunal in Manchester
  • Former procurment director alleges she was dismissed for whistleblowing
  • Co-op vows to defend its decision to dismiss her

Top executives from the Co-operative Group are set to appear in court from tomorrow as a former senior manager alleges she was unfairly dismissed for whistleblowing.

Kath Harmeston, procurement director at the group from April to September 2014, is claiming more than £5m in damages at the employment tribunal in Manchester, where the Co-operative Group is headquartered.

Her lawyers, JMW Solicitors, allege that she was fired after she blew the whistle on improper corporate governance.

The exact details of her allegations are unknown, but will be revealed during the trial, which is listed for two weeks.

Co-op chairman Allan Leighton said in a statement: “We intend to fully and robustly defend our decision to dismiss Kath Harmeston at the upcoming tribunal.

“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.”

Harmeston, who was formerly head of procurement at the Royal Mail for five years, was brought in to help the struggling group cut costs.

It returned to profit in April 2015 after selling its farming and pharmacy arms and improving the performance of its retail arm.