27 March 2009

Economist Article on Worker Co-operatives

The Economist has posted an article on worker co-operatives; talking mainly about Mondragón , in Spain and the effects of the recession.

"Spain’s seventh-largest industrial group, with interests ranging from supermarkets and finance to white goods and car parts. It accounts for 4% of GDP in the Basque country, a region of 2m people. All this has made Mondrag√≥n a model for co-operatives from California to Queensland. How will co-ops, with their ideals of equity and democracy, cope in the recession?"

The Article comments that it is harder for worker co-operatives to make employees redundant but, pay freezes and other labour negotiations can be conducted faster and usually easier than in traditional business. From our own surveys at Co-operatives UK similar results are shown, with respondents more likely to make pay cuts (of up to 30%) rather than laying off staff. This is probably more to do with solidarity than how easier it is to make people redundant.

If you want to read the full article and comment, it can be found here.

17 March 2009

Approaches to employee participation

When hunting for information on the web about worker co-operatives I often come across examples of employee participation in other countries. Here are two recent finds.

Semco - Ricardo Semler (wiki entry)
In 1982 at the age of 24, Ricardo Semler took control of Semler & Company, a business founded and managed by his father. He set about dramatically reorganising the structure: eliminated all secretarial positions, dismantled managerial structures to eliminate "corporate oppression" and encouraged core business values of employee participation, profit sharing and a free flow of information.

Employee Survival Guide (Semco website)
Case Study

W. L. Gore & Associates
There are no traditional organisational charts, no chains of command, nor predetermined channels of communication. Associates (not employees) are hired for general work areas. Assoicates are guided by "sponsors" (not bosses) and after they have a certain level of understanding of the corporate culture and team objectives. They organise themselves and commit to projects that match their skills.

"We communicate directly with each other and are accountable to fellow members of our multi-disciplined teams. We encourage hands-on innovation, involving those closest to a project in decision making. Teams organize around opportunities and leaders emerge. This unique kind of corporate structure has proven to be a significant contributor to associate satisfaction and retention."

Have you come across interesting international examples?

16 March 2009

Calling on world leaders to put people first

One of our worker co-operative members New Internationilst is heaviliy involved in the campaign calling on the G20 leaders to rebuild the global economy.

We at Co-operatives UK are encouraging members to support this campain that calls on G20 leaders, when they meet in London on 2nd April, to put people first by providing decent jobs and public services for all, an end to global inequalities of wealth and power, and a green economy.

This is a great opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and create a better global system that offers fairness, opportunity for all, which rewards self-help and recognises the importance of community.

Co-operation as a business model is recognised the world over as a sustainable and people-centred way of doing business that understands the importance of ‘fair globalisation’. It provides a means of helping developing countries maximise their potential and thus helping their people live better lives.

On March 28th there will be a march starting at Vistoria Embankment (11.00 am) and finishing with a rally in Hyde Park. For further details and how to get involved see www.putpeoplefirst.org.uk

11 March 2009

Employee Co-operative Council Elections

Interested in representing your worker co-operative and influencing Co-operatives UK? Why not nominate yourself for a seat on the Employee Co-operative Council (Representative body for worker co-operatives).

There are 3 places up for grabs this year and we are always interested in new people getting involved. Remember we are a member owned organisation like any other co-operative and we are what you make us.

Main benefits to you and your Co-op
  • Provides an insight into the work of Co-operatives UK and an opportunity to directly influence policy and strategic direction.
  • An excellent opportunity for your co-operative to raise its profile and network with other co-operatives; sectors and international co-operative movements.
  • For the individual, it is great opportunity to increase your knowledge and experience of worker co-operatives and the wider movement.
  • Out of pocket expenses and loss of earnings contributions paid by Co-operatives UK.
Election Timeline
  • Call for nominations week commencing Monday 9th March 2009
  • Closing date for receipt of nominations Monday 20 April 2009
  • Ballot Papers issued, Friday 24 April 2009
  • Closing date for receipt of Ballot Papers, Friday 9 June 2009
  • Election result declared, Monday 1st June 2009
Contact me for more information.

05 March 2009

Co-operatives in the recession

Both economic conditions and government policy have changed dramatically in the last three months.

The UK is now officially in recession and a number of new government initiatives have been launched. To continue to inform action to support co-operatives we need to know what things are like for you on the ground.

Co-operativesUK and the Social Enterprise Coalition (SEC) are conducting a short survey, building on one conducted by SEC last year. To complete the survey click here.