07 October 2009

Worker Co-operative Survey Results

This year we asked worker co-operatives to fill in a few more questions in their annual return, to help us better understand the sector. Below is a summary from the 99 who returned their survey, Thank you!

These results only cover co-operatives that are live and trading. Roughly 25% returned the survey and some only partially completed, please view the results in this context. I hope you find this information interesting and reflect on how you are similar (or different) from other co operatives.

This first chart looks at all live worker co-operative records, we have 3 live co operatives dating back before the 70’s but these have not been included in this chart. IPS’s were the traditional legal form for co operatives, and most early worker co operatives registered as IPS’s. However this model was seen as cumbersome (needed 7 members to start) and quite expensive.

During the 80’s, the number of worker co operatives rapidly increased. ICOM and Co operative Development Bodies developed Company models that were predominately limited by guarantee, to reflect the interest in common ownership and to be more flexible (only needed 3 members).

With the introduction of new legal forms worker co-operatives have taken advantage of these; with at least 4 Community Interest Companies and a number of Limited Liability Partnerships being registered in the last few years.

This second chart focuses on the survey results and the different ownership structures; older worker co operatives tended to prefer common ownership (where the assets are held in common and not withdrawable). During the 00’s there has been a growing trend of “jointly” owned co operatives where members have an individual stake in the co-operative.

Others refer to assets held in trusts commonly used by John Lewis Partnership and Scott Bader for example.

Looking at Governance structure; 25 of the 27 “Collectives” (all members are directors) had 20 or less members. For co-operatives with a “representational” structure (directors elected from membership) there was no clear pattern with co-operatives as low as 4 members choosing this option.

Looking at Management structure; co operatives with a flat structure all had 10 or fewer members (with one exception). As co-operatives grow they tend to develop a sector or team based structure with 9 of the 13 co operatives having more than 30 members with the remaining 4 between
6 -11 members. As might be expected conventional management structures could be found at all levels of membership.

This chart looks in more detail at employees within worker co-operatives. As might be expected there is a higher ratio of women than men being employed part-time compared to fulltime and with roughly 4% of the employees from a Black or Minority Ethnic background.

Pay Structure (more than one answer could be chosen) Out of 99 responses
Members start on the same hourly rate irrespective of their role = 48
Members with longer service are paid more = 12
Members with more responsibility paid more = 31
Members pay based in part on individual performance = 9
Members pay based on need (member withdraws what they need) =1
The majority of members on a higher than industry average = 17
Profits are distributed as a bonus or dividend to members = 35
Members have individual investments that can be withdrawn = 10
Maximum differential in pay (highest can’t be paid ?x the lowest paid) = 6

This final chart gives a break down of worker co operatives by sector (where known). Worker co operatives set up in the 70’s tended to be manufacturing or retail based businesses; this has broadened out over the years, with more worker co-operatives starting in the creative and professional services sectors.

Worker co-operatives vary from 2 to 120 members, with a variety of different governance, management and pay structures, operating throughout the economy. They all however share something in common; their values such as: self-help, democracy, equality, honesty, openness and social responsibility.

We will start sending out next year’s survey at the end of the year. If you were not one of the 99 who returned your survey; please remember to fill this in when you receive your audited accounts for 2009. This information particularly turnover, member/employee figures helps us shout about the size of the sector and campaign on issues affecting our co-operatives.

If you would like to see us include different questions in next year’s survey or are a research interested in more in-depth information, please get in touch.

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