03 February 2012

Size of worker co-op sector

I collated some info for the last worker co-operative council meeting (Co-operatives UK's representative body for worker co-ops). I thought you might be interested in some of the figures.

This does come with a warning however: These are my own own calculations and not that of our specialists. These may not be the same as our official figures in the more rigorous annual report on the co-operative economy and don't include large employee trust co-operatives like John Lewis (they just massively scew the figures by a few £bn).

This table does however give an indication of the split of worker co-ops by different industry sectors, which may be of interest.

Industry Sector Numbers Turnover
Food Retail & Wholesale 41 £74,398,944
Non-food retail 23 £51,047,281
Engineering and Technology 8 £30,947,437
Media and Communications 32 £4,544,368
Newspaper & Publishing 8 £4,302,618
Research and Consultancy 8 £2,871,121
Education, Employment and Training 40 £2,435,466
Business Services 30 £2,416,334
Business Consultancy 19 £1,494,555
Environmental Services
IT Services
Health & Social Care 25 £1,103,153
Creative Arts 34 £1,074,211
Childcare 30 £961,133
Manufacturing 15 £532,305
Financial Services 5 £410,023
Architects 9 £408,706

Community 12 £295,697
Energy 8 £165,624
Leisure and Tourism 11 £122,332
CafĂ©, Catering 9 £36,501
Agricultural 17 £23,681
(blank) 12
Grand Total 431 £181,314,665

Unfortunately as there is no specific worker co-op legal form and therefore regsiter, we only know figures for the worker co-ops that tell us and usually only from our members.

On the map below are all the worker co-ops we know about (and if their members). If you know about a worker co-op that isn't on this list, let me know (it may well be classed as another type of co-op or we just don't know it). A case in point is Northern Ireland and I don't believe there are only 2 in the whole of Northern Ireland.

I've also llisted if their paid up member of Co-opertives UK.  Membership is voluntary and the annual subscription may feel a lot for the smallest co-ops (£75), but the more members we have the stronger we all are.
 If you want to tell me about a worker co-op not listed below, or help me recruit a non member to Co-operatives UK  get in touch.

Also health warning about locations, due to the way "geocoding" is done business probably is not exactly where it says it is on the map and there will undboutly be errors, (first time i did 2 were suposedly in the US..)

View Worker Co-ops in the UK in a full screen map

01 February 2012

MyCSP style over substance?

I have just read an article in the Financial Times about the new "employee owned" privatisation of the civil servants pension fund. As an exponent of worker co-ops and employee ownership should I be happy?

I can't speak on behalf of the movement, but my own personal feeling is best described as 'uneasy'. I have no personal problem moving the means of production from the state direct to the workers (this may well get a lot of bad comments from trade unions, but so be it).  I'm also in favour of experimenting with new models, innovation and the like.

So I'm interested, but also uneasy; there are elements of employee ownership, enough so that if the experiment fails employee ownership will get stained with that failure, Like the Tony Benn's worker co-ops of the 70's, and privatisation of bus companies in the 80's.

But are there enough elements of employee ownership or "John Lewis-style mutual" in place so that this new entity Ministers are poised to launch is a success? Will the employees get a real stake in ownership and control, driving up productivity and customer service? Will it create good jobs, motivated staff and probably most importantly for the Govt. Will it get public acceptance as a more palatable form privatisation, giving workers a more equitable share of the wealth? Lets have a read.

500 staff in the Department for Work and Pensions will leave the public sector in March and become stakeholders in MyCSP, a privately held company that will handle the retirement funds of 1.5m civil servants, disbursing £4bn ($6.3bn) in pension payments each year.
Is it employee owned? 
The MyCSP model, profits will be shared between a private sector provider, which will hold a 42 per cent stake; the government, with 33 per cent; and employees, who will own 25 per cent of the shares. A shortlist of 16 private sector providers has been narrowed to four – Xafinity, Capita, JLT and Wipro.

With a 25% stake I would say no, also its not clear if employees get 25% of the profits (and how this is distributed between employees).

Is it employee controlled?

Clive Bryant, PCS branch secretary in Worthing, said staff would have no real say in the running of the company as they were represented on a shareholder trust by a professional, experienced director, whose position would be advertised, rather than a staff member. The director, advised by employees, would influence decisions over bonuses and charities but would have no control over company strategy. “In reality staff will have an arms-length relationship,” he said. “It’s not as if this is a workers co-op.”

There is an employee partnership council, but information is sketchy, information from PCS the Trade Union is of course bias. If anyone has details of governance and management information I'll be happy to post.

On the face of it I'd say no again.

Will this motivate & empower staff driving up performance?
The Government view taken from Francis Maudes response to a question about consultation with employees is below. Full details here.

Mr Maude: MyCSP is keen to transform its business into an innovative mutual joint venture that offers extensive benefits to employees, customers and the Government.

The Government support this endeavour. Extensive consultation with the employees of MyCSP has been carried out, led by the CEO, including face to face, written and telephone communications. Trade Unions have been consulted and I have met with them personally.

Elections are already under way for employees to sit on the Employee Partnership Council. This body will strengthen the voice of employees and involve them directly in the running of the company.

The view from the Trade Union: "The vast majority of MyCSP members are opposed to leaving the civil service and becoming part of a ‘mutual joint venture’. Ian Pope, PCS DWP group negotiator, told PCS Voice: “MyCSP management has consistently refused to canvass staff views on the decision to move them out of the civil service and into a mutual joint venture. PCS balloted its members in MyCSP and received overwhelming support for action.

Added to that 94% of members in an independent survey conducted by PCS – from a high 55% response rate – said they did not agree with Francis Maude that turning MyCSP would ‘empower staff and drive up performance’.” Full Details here. Their specific response to Employee Partnership Council here.

I'm still interested, but still uneasy.
What do you think?