By 2020, a third of the SMEs in the Walloon region (Belgium) are foreseen to suffer transmission problems due to the lack of a successor and thousands of enterprises are risking closure. There is no experience in business transfers to employees under the cooperative form in this region, a recipe that is saving thousands of jobs in other European countries. To increase the knowledge of this type of business transfer, PROPAGE-S, an agency for the development of social economy in the Walloon region organized a conference on March 7th. CECOP was associated with the event and asked to bring its expertise, share its know-how and provide European experiences in order to inspire regional actors.
Representatives of the worker cooperative movement from Italy, Spain and France have shared their experience with the audience underlining the key role of cooperative support structures and financial and legislative instruments which facilitate the transfer of enterprises at risk of closure into sustainable worker cooperatives. Elena Purinan from the Italian cooperative Aussametal, active in the construction sector, and Maurizio de Santis from Legacoop, Italian cooperative federation, have highlighted the focal role of the Italian legislative framework (the Marcora Law) which provides, among others, financial participation of employees willing to buy out their closing enterprise.
The French example was presented by Bruno Arasa, the manager of Helio Corbeil, a printing company recently transformed into a worker cooperative, and the legal director of the French Confederation of Worker cooperatives CG Scop, Lionel Orsi, who explained the support instruments provided by the cooperative movement. Regional Unions of worker cooperatives in France are essential agents in business transfers to employees. From Spain, Juan Antonio Fernandez, President of the cooperative Celulosa y papel active in the production of cellulose and paper and David Pino from CADE Estrategias, the Andalusian center for enterprise development (a region that has recently approved a new law on cooperatives) has denounced the legal obstacles that workers need to overcome in order to save their jobs. The cooperative Celulosa y papel, located in a rural town of Andalusia, has doubled the number of workers since its transformation into a worker cooperative in 2010.
In the second part of the conference the elements of transferability from the Italian, French and Spanish experiences into the Walloon Region were analysed by local actors, mainly from trade-unions, regional authorities and SME development agencies. Time will tell if the business transfer to employees under the cooperative form will become a reality in Belgium.
Photo: Juan Antonio Fernandez, President of the cooperative Celulosa y papel and David Pino from CADE Estrategias
International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives
Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037