4 May 2016
Earthworker, a community-led initiative to provide sustainable, wealth-creating jobs that empower local communities and provide clean energy solutions, is setting up an Australia-wide network of community owned cooperatives. They are beginning with Eureka’s Future – a worker cooperative to manufacture high quality solar hot water systems in Dandenong, and then Morwell, in the heart of Victoria’s coal-burning LaTrobe Valley.
Eureka’s Future Workers Cooperative is in the process of being established through the acquisition of technology and know-how from a long-standing reputable manufacturer, ‘Everlast Hydro Systems’ in Dandenong.
Forging unlikely alliances between trade unionists, environmentalists and small manufacturers, the project is a powerful and positive endeavour to revitalise local economies, address climate change, and assist a ‘just transition’ from fossil fuel to clean renewable energy.
The centrepiece of this business model draws on the strength of collective organising and the trade union movement to support a collective market for solar hot water systems. Additionally, through partnering with the credit union BankAustralia (formerly BankMECU), low interest loans are being made available to help households to acquire solar hot water systems.
“Households, individuals, families and business are able to purchase our solar hot water systems via our website or over the phone reducing their power bills and supporting Australian manufacturing” -they explain in their website.
Earthworker replaces the old systems and supplies plumbing networks.
Earthworker is organising a new form of market, which take into account the agreements negotiated by the unions and employers (EBAs – enterprise bargaining agreements). The inclusion of an Earthworker Clause in their agreement means that, as part of their wage increase, workers can choose to order solar hot water, thereby converting their wage increase into savings on their future energy bill.
Through agreements with their plumbing network, Eureka’s Future will manufacture Everlast’s Solar Ready water tanks so that they can be supplied to regional plumbing businesses. This means plumbers can now replace blown out hot water systems with locally-made Solar Ready tanks that facilitate the use of solar hot water, thereby providing a steady flow of work for Eureka’s Future.
Eureka’s Future is now starting to manufacture it products through industry partners (Everlast and Siddons), but it still requires support to establish the first worker cooperative in Morwell.