1 December 2015
The research Conference on Cooperatives and the World of Work organized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) on 8-10 November in the framework of the ICA global conference had a prominent participation of representatives and researchers in the field of worker and social cooperatives. Hyungsik Eum, Data Analyst of CICOPA presented a paper on employment in worker and social cooperatives in Japan, USA and Italy based on interviews within the CICOPA study “Cooperatives and Employment : a global report” and on his own recent fieldwork in the USA.
As far as participation by CICOPA member organizations is concerned, Joanna Brzozowzka-Wabik from NAUWC presented the latest figures on worker and social cooperatives in Poland and Valerio Pellirossi from Federsolidarietà shared the most updated trends on social cooperatives providing jobs to prisoners in Italy. Researchers linked to CICOPA Korean member KFWC also presented papers.
The relation between worker cooperatives and trade unions was also analysed. Özge Berber-Agtas shared how worker cooperatives and trade unions are protecting the rights of domestic workers in Trukey and Mary Hoyer presented the new developments of labour unions and worker cooperatives in the USA. “How to rediscover the connection between trade unions and cooperatives? We live in different worlds, different agencies. We may need to rediscover each other’s, we need to work together for policy making and responses to job losses and privatizations”, said Özge Berber-Agtas at the conclusions.
Indeed, the work of the Italian social cooperatives, including with prisoners, was presented by Valerio Pellirossi: about 100 social cooperatives in provide jobs to over 1,000 prisoners in this country. Joanna Brzozowzka-Wabik share the story of the first cooperative in Poland created in 1816 and expressed that even if not all social cooperatives in Poland provide full time jobs “immediately, they improve their employability”.
In the field of cooperatives and innovation, the French activity and employment cooperatives was introduced by Mélissa Boudes. Many concrete examples were shared with the audience. How business buyouts are saving jobs and enterprises in times of crisis in Italy and the resilience of those enterprises to the crisis in different countries was also the subject of several round tables. Neda Faregh and Claudia Sanchez Bajo reported on findings on the feasibility of a cooperative with refugees, touching on gender issues.
The conference aimed at bringing the significance of decent work in the context of creating new areas of employment in the word of cooperatives, rights in working life, social protection and social dialogue into the spotlight. “When we talk of decent work at the ILO, we mean rights at work, employment opportunities, enhancing social protection and strengthening social dialogue on work-related issues,” said Numan Özcan, Director of the ILO Office for Turkey. “We believe, with their strong potential in creation of decent jobs particularly for women, cooperatives can be an important player in the world of work,” Özcan noted, also calling on the cooperative movement to look into the possibility of utilising cooperatives for generating income for the Syrian refugees.
In his keynote address, Jürgen Schwettman, former Director of the ILO’s Department of Partnerships and Field Support, said cooperatives should be able to demonstrate that ‘decent work for all’ was possible even in a post growth context as long as the cooperatives became the integral part of the changing world of work. “The true power of cooperatives does not stem from their size or economic might; the true power of cooperatives comes from their distinct nature, characteristics, values, principles and governance structure,” noted Schwettman.
Pointing to the significance of organization of such a conference, Simel Esim, Head of the ILO’s Cooperatives Unit, said “This conference comes at a time when the world of work issues are high on the 2030 sustainable development agenda and cooperatives have been identified as means of implementation for the goals.”
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