Worker cooperatives drive employment recovery
Spain’s worker cooperatives, numbering in excess of 17,000, have seen a ten percentage point lesser drop in employment compared to other business models. Juan Antonio Pedreño, president of COCETA (Confederación Española de Cooperativas de Trabajo Asociado or the Spanish Confederation of Worker Cooperatives, in English), said “it shows how the loss of 1.8 million jobs could have been avoided – by all businesses operating like cooperatives. The municipalities with the lowest losses of employment are the ones where the cooperative movement is strong”.
29 June 2015
In 2007 around 24% of businesses were cooperatives. At the close of 2014 this had increased to 32.1%. During the same period the number of cooperative enterprises with more than 250 workers increased from 22% to 31.8%. 80% of worker cooperatives offer indefinite employment and 81% offer full time work. Women represent almost 50% of the workforce, whilst young people (up to the age of 39) account for almost 43%. Worker cooperatives are also more likely to be more inclusive, taking on people with difficulties.
COCETA and Cooperatives Europe, a European cross sector organisation for cooperatives, held a conference on the 22nd June entitled “Cooperativism in Spain”, providing a forum to debate the role of restructured businesses and youth in the cooperative movement. Pablo Ascasibar, president of worker cooperative Agresta, said “cooperative entities need to play a role in encouraging high calibre students to set up cooperatives and link up with the various networks cropping up across Europe for youth cooperatives”. Malena Riudavert of COCETA said that “as cooperatives we are capable of addressing the needs of young people such as employment, innovation, training, services, profitability and efficiency. As cooperatives we can, and are in fact obliged to, give hope and encouragement to young people”.
One of the key themes at the conference was the restructuring of businesses, with two members of businesses restructured as cooperatives taking part. Salvador Bolancer of Mol Matric, a company that restructured 34 years ago shared his experience, saying “the important thing about restructuring a business is to have a strong team backing the process, not just one leader” and “it’s important that everyone cooperates: not only the cooperative organisations themselves but even the family members of those involved”. He added “back then we considered ourselves workers – it was important for us to keep that status and carry on as we were”.
Miguel Ruiz, from the Valencian teaching cooperative “Mestres de la Creu” was another representative for restructure. He said: “I think it’s very important to promote the cooperative model, but it’s not just up to those of us working in the sector to spread the message. It’s also the responsibility of public bodies to put processes into place enabling businesses to set up or restructure as cooperatives”. Journalist Mariana Vilnitzky from cooperative “Alternativas Económicas” (Alternative Economics, in English) chaired the discussion. She stressed that although they may remain relatively unknown, Spanish restructured businesses maintained a strong position. She concluded that more emphasis should be placed on restructuring companies, with funds specifically dedicated to doing so, as is the case in France and Argentina.
In his closing speech, Manuel Mariscal, president of the worldwide cooperative organisation CICOPA, and vice-president of COCETA, rounded up the conference by saying that these are historic times for the cooperative movement; times in which the movement can come up with solutions to what society really needs.