6th of July 2019
Yesterday, today and tomorrow – Worker cooperatives fight for decent work
Decent work is this year’s topic for the International Day of Cooperatives, taking place on the 6th of July. With an estimated 11.5 million jobs, CICOPA celebrates wholeheartedly the achievements of our worker and social cooperatives and their daily struggle for decent work.
Decent work through democratic and meaningful jobs
Cooperative employment is more sustainable in time, suffers less income inequality, and enjoys a higher level of satisfaction and self-identity at work than the average.
Worker cooperatives started developing during the first industrial revolution with the very purpose of providing worker-members with better, fairer and more dignifying labour relations, and protect them with appropriate systems of welfare and social security. Since then, they have been a space for experimenting democracy at work through more and more sophisticate governance and management process, while at the same time adapting to new labour challenges and requirements.
Decent work through cooperative values for the Future of Work
Cooperatives are also experimenting innovative and sustainable work relations within the enterprise: industrial and service cooperatives have first developed predominantly under the form of worker cooperatives since the 1830s, with continuous creativity and innovation in labour relations until today. They are presently experimenting new forms such as social cooperatives, community cooperatives, business and employment cooperatives, multi-stakeholder cooperatives etc.
In particular, hand in hand with an overall growth of non-standard employment, there has been an increase in cooperatives established and owned by independent workers/producers, who have the double advantage of providing members with autonomy and security. On top of that, some of these cooperatives provide members with an employee status and related social rights. At this historic time, they represent a valuable solution to job instability and informal work that highly affect some particular categories of workers: young people (e.g. youths active in the collaborative economy or the creative industry); women (home-based workers and providers of social services); and migrants.
Decent work for workers in the informal economy
The informal economy has been continuously on the rise since the 1980s and new forms of informal work, often related to new technological development, have drawn attention particularly in the most industrialised countries and in emerging economies. It seems that the informal economy in developing countries has come to stay, while in the industrialised ones the current deterioration of existing social rights and protection granted to workers and a consequent tendency towards informalization is excluding more and more people from formal employment arrangements.
Cooperatives can be a tool for improving working conditions and the quality of life of those working in the informal economy. While these cooperatives cannot always provide a stable legal status or formal social protection to their members, they contribute to raising and stabilising members’ incomes, increasing the performance and competitiveness of members’ activity, and making members’ voices heard collectively.
Decent work for democracy inside and outside the workplace
Worker and social cooperatives, by bringing democracy into the workplace, practice and foster a model where workers are protagonists. When we engage for the benefit of local communities, when we pursue the general interest, when we preserve the industries, when we inject economic democracy in enterprise decision-making, we actively fight social exclusion, and strive for a better world.
Happy International Day of Cooperatives!