Cooperatives of Freelancers in Spain

The issue of “freelancers” cooperatives in Spain is a controversial one. Partly because the function and objective of worker cooperatives (democratic governance, solidarity, mutual support, cooperativization of work…) are confused with a series of false cooperatives; that only give the possibility for self-employed to invoice, paying less taxes. A legal loophole that is now in question.

The Spanish Confederation of Cooperatives of Associated Work (COCETA) received several questions from the media, to which its president Juan Antonio Pedreño responded: “The members do not even know each other. The cooperative cannot be a model to defraud, where participation, a pillar of cooperativism, is exercised as an administrative act”.

The cooperative law of 1999 clearly explains the object in the associated work cooperatives: “to provide its members with jobs through their personal effort through the common organization of the production of goods or services for third parties”.

The Ministry of Employment and Social Security legally sued this type of cooperatives, urging them to pay the fines and all unpaid months for the autonomous workers’ quota. The process is currently in the courts. From the Factoo cooperative, one of the best known, they indicate that “our cooperative, like others that operate throughout the Spanish territory, was born and developed to give a legal response to the employment situation of thousands of people, given the precariousness of their jobs, are not within the legal framework that our law provides for self-employed workers, either because they do not reach the minimum interprofessional salary, or because of the sporadic and unusual nature of their work “.

Andalusian entrepreneurship cooperatives affected

The Andalusian organization of work cooperatives, FAECTA, which has developed in its policies the promotion of freelancers’ cooperatives, considers that entrepreneurial cooperatives are fully supported by the Andalusian regulations; and that they do not correspond to the false cooperatives, because they share much more than the administrative sphere. Even so, accusations by the Ministry have included the Andalusian cooperatives.

In a statement issued before the accusations, FAECTA explains “it is studying the reasons why the cooperative Inpulse, active in business development, cannot develop its activity after the campaign of labor inspections that has realized the Ministry of Employment. For the Federation these actions are the result of ignorance of the cooperative formula and the confusion that has led to the appearance of the pseudo cooperatives billing”.

“Faced with this situation, which may affect other Andalusian cooperatives that provide the same services to their associates”, FAECTA adds that “we are talking about a type of company (cooperative business impulse) that is included in the Law of Cooperativas Andaluzas 14/2011 and whose corporate purpose is to channel the entrepreneurial initiative of its partners and provide them with certain common services, creating an environment in which to regularly carry out their professional activity”.

From FAECTA they want to make clear the separation between the false cooperatives and the cooperatives of business development. “Certain companies are misusing the term cooperative and this legal formula taking advantage of the needs of groups and people seeking in this form of business organization decent conditions to develop their trade. In these billing companies, which are not governed by or respect cooperative principles, a clear corporate relationship is not established with the worker partner, which is confused with a client, there is no clear social purpose and they have a clearly instrumental character, aspects that they do not marry the values that govern the cooperative model “.

We are dealing with a controversial issue, since, as has been indicated, the figure of the work cooperative is being “interpreted extensively”. It is true that there is a reality of people who are not contributing to social security or paying taxes because income is scarce and sporadic, and this situation can be answered from the cooperative, for example, through the Cooperatives of Services and not Labor, whose function has already been indicated…

We must be broad-minded and give solutions through cooperativism….