On 28 February 2015 in Rome, at the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the re-establishment of CICOPA Italian member organization Confcooperative in 1945 after the fall of Fascism, 7000 Confcooperative members had an audience with Pope Francis. Confcooperative President Maurizio Gardini declared: “Our task is to go ahead and try to change the economy, improve people's lives, put the person at the centre, prove that the profit is not the only reason to do business and not even the predominant one, correct the competition in domestic and global markets through solidarity, make a strong contribution to renew the Italian welfare system on the basis of subsidiarity and mutuality. This is what we think should be the lesson of this crisis that has been dragging on for seven years. The goal is not to go back to the same levels as before, but rather to humanize the economy and cure the ills that have caused the crisis in the first place”. He pledged to Pope Bergoglio: “we will strive and do our best to bequeath to the youth and future generations the legacy of a better world”.
The examples of cooperatives presented to the Pope included a case of a business transfer to the employees. Roberto Morgagni, from the cooperative Lincoop, in Bertinoro (Emilia-Romagna), explained that: “In Bertinoro, workers have become entrepreneurs by themselves. A group of employees who had lost their jobs restored the business of their former company, saving their own jobs, and going into new markets on top of the old ones. This is the story of Lincoop: it now has 20 workers from a company producing road signs at Bertinoro (in the province of Forlì-Cesena), who organized so as to be able to continue to work, and have even been able to recruit a few young people looking for a job. Being born from the ashes of a company that has closed down, we could have decided to go each of us one’s own way, or try to do something together. In the end we chose the second option, and we were supported in this by Confcooperative. We started with a single contract, but within a few months our team had received orders from different parts of Italy”.
The case of a social cooperative in Naples was also presented to the Pope: “more than 50 young people have organized themselves in the cooperative. Some take care of the Catacombs and the basilicas of the Sanità District, dealing with maintenance and exploitation, others accompany the pilgrims and visitors coming from all over the world”. These youth “were the last among the young people of Naples. In order to mobilize them to work together, it has been sufficient to give them the responsibility of managing common goods for them to start building their own future”.
In his intervention, the Pope said: "cooperatives are able to properly manage money to the service of life, but only if they are real and genuine, and provided that capital does not command on human beings, but instead human beings command on capital ". Bergoglio further called on the cooperative movement to “fight against false cooperatives, those that prostitute the name of cooperative”.
Coming from Argentina, Bergoglio witnessed the proliferation of false cooperatives in South America since the 1990s. CICOPA has been fighting this phenomenon all along, first by lobbying in 2001/2002 in Geneva so that ILO Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation n°193 contain a paragraph condemning pseudo-cooperatives, then by inserting a paragraph on the latter in the World Declaration on Worker Cooperatives, approved by the General Assembly of the International Cooperative Alliance in 2005. CICOPA also closely followed up the formulation and approval in 2012 of the Brazilian Worker Cooperative Law, which includes a provision making illegal cooperatives that practice labour intermediation.
More information here:
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