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Work Together

Y O S PE UT CIA H AN L ED I D CO TIO OP N O N ER AT IV ES

October 2011 - Issue Nº 5

The global information magazine on cooperatives and worker-owned enterprises in industry, services and crafts

Young cooperators, beyond the crisis

IN THIS ISSUE

TWO NEW BOOKS TO BETTER UNDERSTAND COOPERATIVES (page 5)

EDITORIAL

2

INTERCONTINENTAL

3

EUROPE

5

SOUTH AMERICA

9

NORTH AMERICA

10

AFRICA

11

ASIA

12

HOW WORKERS OCCUPIED A FACTORY IN SOUTH AFRICA (page 11)

JOB CREATION IN JAPAN (page 12)

THE WAY FORWARD! A CONFERENCE ON COOPERATIVES AND DEVELOPMENT IN CANCUN

(page 3)


2 | EDITORIAL

WORK TOGETHER - ISSUE N° 5 - OCTOBER 2011

Editorial

The right to know By Olivier Biron, CICOPA press officer In the process of re-reading the content of the articles in this issue of “Work Together”, I remembered my early days in the cooperative movement. When I started working for CICOPA in 2006, I hardly knew what a worker cooperative was. In my perception of things, companies were held by employers and employees were at their service. I have since realized that it was just an option and that each of us have a share of responsibility in how we organize our relationship with the work place. The current crisis will not go against us: the speculative system and the capitalist business model have spread the current chaos in the global economy. In a race to better itself, the world of banking and finance has forgotten that men and women are the pillars of what one usually refers to as work.

tive when they are in crisis or if they have no buyers.

On the dawn of launching the International Year of Cooperatives in 2012, the need to communicate this model is fundamental. Today, the European organization of CICOPA (CECOP-CICOPA Europe) publishes two new books on the contribution of cooperatives to a sustainable European economy. One publication is “Cooperatives, Territories and Employment”, a collection of 20 stories of cooperatives, active in industry and services across “We all have a Europe. It is a great right to know that tool for anyone another way exists; who wants to learn more about coopa solution that eratives. It shows how these compaemphasizes the nies create wealth, collective and meet the needs of its workers and human interests participate in the rather than economy of a city, region or country, the short etc.

term interests”

Even today, I meet people daily who do not know what a cooperative is. They do not realize that a company can be owned and managed democratically by its workers. More importantly, they do not know that this formula works, and that successful companies prosper and flourish in a competitive market and are part of the European landscape, in the same way as others. They are not aware that this model saves businesses and jobs through the takeover of firms and by transferring them into a coopera-

“Work Together”, the magazine you are holding in your hands, is not only designed for the cooperative movement. It is addressed to all those who are directly or indirectly interested in the society in which we live. We all have a right to know that another way exists; a solution that emphasizes the collective and human interests rather than the short term interests, a model that is for those who want to create a sustainable project. We all have the right to know that a model do for our generation already exists.

Work Together Issue Nº 5 - October 2011 “Work Together” is the magazine of the world (CICOPA) and European (CECOP) Confederation of cooperatives and worker-owned enterprises active in industry and services CICOPA is a sectoral organisation of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA). Avenue Milcamps 105 - BE-1030 Brussels, Belgium Contact: olivier.biron@cicopa.coop www.cicopa.coop / www.cecop.coop SECRETARY GENERAL

Bruno Roelants COORDINATION AND EDITION

Olivier Biron and Leire Luengo GRAPHIC DESIGN

Jorge Cabrera for jcse TRANSLATIONS AND PROOFREADING OF THE THREE LINGUISTIC VERSIONS

Guy Boucquiaux, Helen Robinson, Olivier Biron and Leire Luengo. PICTURES

Self-production and copyright-free photographs from flickr.com The editorial staff would like to thank all the members of CICOPA and CECOP CICOPA Europe for their contribution. Edited in English, French and Spanish

Picture of the cover: Cooperative Mazetas (Spain)


WORK TOGETHER - ISSUE N° 5 - OCTOBER 2011

INTERCONTINENTAL

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INTERCONTINENTAL The Way Forward: World conference on cooperatives and development in Cancun Olivier Biron, CICOPA be held in T he event that will th

Cancun on 17 November is unique in several different ways. Primarily, it will be a source of inspiration for the work of cooperatives, which deliver concrete actions on a daily basis in the field of development. How do they do it? How do they create the conditions to develop viable and prosperous cooperatives? Cooperatives are seen as very important actors in the field of development. They have an enormous capacity to build a better world at the same time as being sustainable, this is the case of all the cooperatives and especially the contribution of cooperatives in the industry, services and health sectors. There is a focus on key components of development: the creation and maintenance of jobs and industrial or service activities (worker and social cooperatives), community services and services of general interest (social cooperatives), the development of local individual productive activities (bakers, mechanics, masons, lorry drivers, etc.), and the adapted provision of health services to meet consumers' needs (health cooperatives). [1]

CICOPA and IHCO aim to underline the cooperative role on development matter but also to understand and discuss it in a conference that will be held in Cancun on 17th November. "The way forward: Coopera-

‘La Fageda’, a Spanish social cooperative, which is a key factor of development in the region

tives and development" will take the shape of a television debate: a round table conference with 30 key persons involved in development strategies and policies (World Health Organisation ILO, UNDP, European Commission, etc.) will debate on how cooperatives have contributed, and can contribute to development at the local, regional, national and international levels. In this exclusive debate, participants will try to see how to build a path towards a cooperative development strategy, based on the past experience of cooperatives. This conference will be a useful event for every actor in the cooperative movement that wants to understand, work and underline the challenges we are all facing already. A draft programme is available at the website of the conference: http://

http://www.facebook.com/cicopa http://www.twitter.com/cicopa http://www.youtube.com/user/CICOPAcoops

s.coop/7bjt. Participants can register to the conference on the following link: http://bit.ly/pv42ad. The conference will take place within the framework of the International Cooperative Alliance’s General Assembly that will be held in Cancun from 14th to 18th November. On the same occasion, the IYC (International Year of Cooperatives in 2012) will be officially launched. ■ [1] CICOPA is the International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and Service Producers’ Cooperatives (www.cicopa.coop) and IHCO is International Health Cooperative Organisation (www.ica.coop/ihco). Visit the website of the conference: http:// coopsanddevelopmentcancun.wordpress.com/

FOLLOW US


4 | INTERCONTINENTAL

WORK TOGETHER - ISSUE N° 5 - OCTOBER 2011

A world-wide program helps young people to create a cooperative Natalie Bradbury, The Co-operative College

T he Co-operative College lo-

cated in Manchester, UK, offers a program called “Young Co -operatives” which helps young people to set up and run their own cooperative enterprise. Anyone from any country can register and there are no specific restrictions, although participants are often between the ages of five and sixteen. The scheme has been running since 2004. There are nearly 150 registered “Young Co-operatives” and, whilst most “Young Co-operatives” are based in the United Kingdom, there are others operating as far afield as the USA, India, South Africa, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic. They are generally based on one of three models: Fairtrade, for which students often set up tuck shops in school, the Greenfingers horticultural project, which enables youth cooperatives to develop into fruit and vegetable growers, or Recon, a waste management and recycling scheme. The activities of “Young Cooperatives” include fairtrade tastings, sports days, fashion shows, visiting

A group of young cooperators presenting fair trade products

local old people’s homes and sleeping rough for charity to raise awareness of homelessness. There are many examples. Lipson Community College in Devon has a large band, a dance group and a hairdressing salon, which are all run as “Young Cooperatives”, whilst students at Sir Thomas Boughey High School in Staffordshire sell jewellery made by South African veterans in their Ethical Trading Co-operative, which helps provide income for former army officers and their families.

ing stock, researching markets, devising promotional materials and cash management, young cooperative members also get the chance to put the cooperative values into practice. Each member has an equal stake in the business and an equal opportunity to contribute and make decisions. They run their own meetings and learn about the wider cooperative movement. ■ To read more about “Young Cooperatives” and register as a youth cooperative please visit http://s.coop/5yc7

Whilst gaining practical business experience such as selecting and pric-

BOOK: The Editor's Choice

The Debt Trap Olivier Biron, CICOPA “Capital and the Debt Trap” opens up new ways of thinking in the view of the recent financial crisis which has had a devastating impact around the globe. Thousands of businesses have closed, millions of jobs have been cut and many people have lost their homes. The book explains how we have fallen into a “debt trap”, linking the

financial sphere to the real economy, and looks into alternatives to the constant stream of financial bubbles and shocks. Overlooked by many, cooperatives across the world have been relatively resilient throughout the crisis. Through four case studies, this book explores their strategies, providing an in-depth analysis within a broader debate on wealth generation

and a sustainable future. “Capital and the Debt Trap. Learning from cooperatives in the global crisis” by Claudia Sánchez Bajo and Bruno Roelants. Palgrave Macmillan (2011). ■ Read more on the book’s blog: www.capital-and-the-debt-trap.com/


EUROPE

WORK TOGETHER - ISSUE N° 5 - OCTOBER 2011

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EUROPE EUROPEAN UNION

Two books to explain about cooperatives Olivier Biron, CICOPA oday, cooperatives are no longer

T seen as a stopgap in the econ-

omy. This model of enterprise has proved its contribution to the development of different territories and to job creation in Europe. In many respects, cooperatives in industry and services also demonstrate their resilience to the crisis, thanks to their capacity to anticipate change, their joint ownership and democratic control system and the strong link they have with people and the community. CECOP - CICOPA Europe, the European organisation of CICOPA, has published two books which aim to shed some light on how cooperatives contribute to a more sustainable economy. “Cooperatives, Territories and Jobs” is a compilation of 20 stories of cooperatives active in industry and services. It focuses on five different approaches with which these enterprises contribute to sustainable employment and regional development. From the internationally recognized Mondragon Cooperative group in Spain, to a successful wholefood distribution firm in the UK called Suma, the cases illustrate how cooperatives have an impact on employment and territorial development. The second book, “Beyond the Crisis: Cooperatives, Work, Finance”, reflects the particularly strong resilience of cooperatives and other forms of employee-owned enterprises against the backdrop of the global financial and economic crisis that flared up in 2007/2008. It explains why worker cooperation can provide a major contribution, not only to the efforts being made to cope with change, but also to anticipate it. The study focuses particularly on three

The Italian cooperative ‘La Mat’, one of the stories of "Cooperatives, Territories and Jobs"

countries where cooperative practice is very strong, namely Italy, Spain and France.

Both books can be purchased at www.cecop.coop in the “Publications” section. ■

Beyond the Crisis: Cooperatives, Work, Finance by Alberto Zevi, Antonio Zanotti, François Soulage and Adrian Zelaia - 26 € - available in English, French, Italian and Spanish.

Cooperatives, Territories and Jobs edited by Bruno Roelants, Valerio Pellirossi and Olivier Biron - 55 € available in English and French.


6 | EUROPE

WORK TOGETHER - ISSUE N° 5 - OCTOBER 2011

SPAIN

Spanish young cooperators: an escape from the crisis Maria Vilnitzky, COCETA he unemployment and job inse-

T curity figures among young

Spaniards are chilling. Almost half of those aged between 16 and 29 years cannot find a job. This is not where it ends: the average wage among young people is 15,370 Euros per year, and 40% of the workers have jobs below their educational level. Juan Antonio Pedreño, president of the Spanish Confederation of Worker Cooperatives (COCETA) insists that while the rest of the companies are decreasing employment, in cooperatives the number of jobs is not only remaining the same but it is even increasing. The newspaper “Empresa y trabajo” (www.empresaytrabajo.coop/023/ index.asp) published by COCETA presents the experiences of Imperdible, Idaia, Emergya, Seis60, Dosotres y Claraboia, which are examples of cooperatives whose members were no more than 30 years old when they created their enterprises. It's not the same as having a boss assigning work, it’s more like going to

Members of the cooperative Emergya in Andalucía (Spain)

work and thinking that everything you do to improve will be for your benefit and not for someone else, declare the members of the Andalusian cooperative Seis60. Cooperative training As for cooperative training, COCETA is developing a program called “Aulacoop” aimed at young people who want to know what a worker co-

operative is and how it is managed (www.aula.coop / itinerarios.asp). Furthermore, in each region there are courses and activities being organised, mainly in universities and colleges. Some universities have cooperative centres such as the Cooperative Research Centre (Cecoop) at the University of Santiago de Compostela, the University of Valencia and the Complutense University of Madrid. ■

Erasmus Young Entrepreneurs program: exchanging experiences Leire Luengo, CICOPA rasmus for Young Entrepre-

“E neurs” is a program which

gives the opportunity to new European entrepreneurs, who are planning to set up their own business or who have already started one within the last three years, to have a work experience in a small or medium-sized enterprise in the EU and to improve their entrepreneurial skills. At the same time, it allows the experienced host entrepreneurs to benefit from fresh ideas from a motivated new entrepreneur visiting their business.

On the cooperative level, Koperattivi Malta, the CICOPA member on the island, is developing the exchange program following the successful first phase in 2009. It is currently involved in the “Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs” 3rd phase, which started in February 2011 and will run for a period of 21 months. Koperattivi Malta currently has five on-going relationships in different business sectors with another four preparing to start their experience. During the first phase, Koperattivi Malta managed to successfully conclude 16 matches.

The scheme offers new entrepreneurs the chance to work for up to six months in an established SME in another EU country. The program is financed by the European Commission and operates across the European Union with the help of local contact points, competent in business support such as the Chambers of Commerce.■ To find more information about “Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs” follow this link : http://www.erasmus-entrepreneurs.eu


EUROPE

WORK TOGETHER - ISSUE N° 5 - OCTOBER 2011

ITALY

Ceramics: the story of a recovery Adriana Assini, ANCPL

Worker members from Greslab

n Italy, about 90% of the ce-

I ramic industry’s national pro-

duction is concentrated in the region of Emilia Romagna, particularly in the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Modena. These companies provide 632 million square meters of ceramic tiles annually and export about 70% of production. In recent years, the sector has suffered from the economic crisis and many enterprises have seen their businesses decrease. Greslab is a cooperative created by its workers, thanks to the former employees of the company Optima, which has been active in the field of ceramics since 1983. After the crisis that started in 2008, the company could not sustain itself and declared bankruptcy. More than forty of its workers rented and then bought the production tool in order to revive the business. They were willing to invest their severance payments and their entire personal savings. The operation was supported, among others, by Coopfond and CFI, two financial instruments of the cooperative movement in Italy.

The cooperative Greslab is the result of a thorough analysis of the difficulties that have undermined the ceramics sector which go beyond the effects of the global economic crisis. A strategic plan that can provide new answers in terms of organization has been developed. It highlights the production specialization, the investment in staff training, the innovation, the development of areas of research and focus on the “Made in Italy” mark of quality. Antonio Caselli, Greslab president, added that the cooperative has a renewed enthusiasm, which I would describe as extremely positive. For its part, Legacoop, one of the main Italian cooperative confederations, is pleased with this transaction. The birth of this cooperative is our greatest pride, said the President of Legacoop in Reggio Emilia, Simona Caselli. It demonstrates the importance of field work in difficult times in terms of economic and social development. We are particularly pleased that through a cooperative, 40 workers have been able to maintain their jobs and can look ahead without worrying about the future. ■

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Green transport in Bologna Antonio Amato, Federlavoro e Servizi SACA in Bologna, is an enterprise specialising in passenger transport, which accumulates approximately 10 million kilometres of travel each year in the safe transportation of its customers. This cooperative, with over 200 working members, has a turnover of more than 49 million. Recently, it has developed a photovoltaic system at the top of its headquarters. Thanks to this, the company has managed to create a system that can provide energy to its electric buses, which connect the station with the city center of Bologna and a nearby shopping center every day. This facility allows an annual reduction of dust emissions into the atmosphere equal to 2,23kg and a reduction in CO2 emissions of 42.87 kg! ■

FRANCE

Young co-entrepreneurs in France Leire Luengo, CICOPA The French Confederation of worker cooperatives (CGSCOP) published an article in its magazine “Participer” (“Participate”, in French), about the experiences of several young entrepreneurs from cooperatives in France. The long-term vision of the enterprise, equality among members, independence and sustainable development are what motivated the young creators to found a cooperative. Motion Twin, Kauriweb, Coopaname and Chauffeur & Go are some of the examples presented in the published article. ■ You can register on the following link to access the magazine: http://s.coop/5zob


8 | EUROPE

WORK TOGETHER - ISSUE N° 5 - OCTOBER 2011

MALTA

SLOVAKIA

Young entrepreneurs and communications

When a natural disaster strikes Helena Cápová, Coop Product Slovakia

Leire Luengo, CICOPA A group of young entrepreneurs created Mediacoop in 1997, a worker cooperative active in the communication field in Malta. In adopting the cooperative model we could share expertise, dreams and risks together, young people can be well suited to working in a team and can be flexible enough to make it work well together, said the Managing Director, John Mallia. In 2005, Mediacoop became the owner of Capital Radio. Now it produces audiovisual contents for television, internet and social media. It provides marketing and public relations consultancy, and delivers training programmes to approximately one thousand people every year. Mediacoop has launched more than thirty five young people into the media and communications industry; some of these have become members of the cooperative. ■

BULGARIA

Worker cooperative exhibition in Bulgaria Petia Atanasova, NUWPC Around 46 cooperatives and enterprises which are specialized in working with disabled people were represented at the 9th National Exhibition of goods and services, organized by the National Union of Worker Producers’ Cooperatives (NUWPC) that was held in Plovdiv (Bulgaria). A round table was organized under the theme: “Business environment – a factor for social inclusion”. During this forum, there was discussion about the creation of conditions for the professional development of young people in the European Union. ■

The cooperative Eurokov during and after the flooding

fter the earthquakes that hit

A Japan and Spain this year,

CICOPA wants to give a little hope to the people who have suffered from natural disasters by sharing the story of Eurokov Orlov, a worker cooperative active in the construction sector in Slovakia. A proverb says: a friend in need is a friend indeed. There could be some truth in this. The extensive flooding in June 2010 made history in the cooperative based in Orlov. The river Poprad showed its strength when beyond anyone’s control, it flooded the whole area: workshops, administrative offices, shore houses, etc. Simply in seconds, the long-time established and prosperous manufacturer changed into a disaster zone. The damage was extensive: the ma-

chines and the material were destroyed and the workers had lost all their hopes. Thanks to the assistance and the solidarity of the cooperative movement, the difficult fight for survival began. Workers of the cooperative managed to rebuild the production premises and they even re-launched production. All this was done with the assistance of the Board of Coop Product Slovakia. Thanks to the solidarity and mutual help, the Eurokov Orlov cooperative still exists. Today, a year after intensive work, the impossible became possible. The name “EUROKOV” has been used since 2001, but the cooperative started in 1961 as the part of the East Slovakian cooperative car repair society. ■


SOUTH AMERICA

WORK TOGETHER - ISSUE N° 5 - OCTOBER 2011

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SOUTH AMERICA URUGUAY

ARGENTINA

Recovering work!

A film about a worker cooperative Leire Luengo, CICOPA

Olivier Biron, CICOPA anlio Masucci is the author of a M photographic investigation on cooperatives in the city of Montevideo and in the Canelones Province. The pictures of “Recuperare il lavoro / Recuperar el trabajo” (“Recovering work”; available in Spanish and Italian) puts the human being at the centre of working activity. The book contains articles about some of the major experts in the sector of worker buy-outs in Latin America. This extraordinary piece of work is the result of a project led by the Italian NGO's Iscos and Cospe and the Federation of Cooperatives of Uruguay with the support of the European Union. The book provides a sound explanation of the worker buy-out phenomenon under the cooperative form in Latin America, which contributes to the economic revival as an alternative model of development to the neoliber-

“Industria Argentina” tells the story of a factory in bankruptcy; and which had been taken over by its worker as a worker cooperative. The movie Premiere took place on 13th October in Argentina.

Photo by Manlio Masucci

alism, which dominated for years in this region. Masucci is an Italian journalist and photo reporter specialized in employment issues. He worked as a correspondent in South America, the United States and India for different agencies and newspapers including Ansa and Il Messaggero. ■ You can visit the CICOPA website to see the photo gallery taken from the book of Manlio Masucci on http:// www.cicopa.coop/Recovering-work.html

MERCOSUR

Universities promoting cooperative development Diego Barrios (PROCOAS Committee Coordinator )

R ed del Sur (Southern Network,

in Spanish) has reached an agreement with the Universities Montevideo Group Association (AUGM) to boost cooperative worker ownership and to strengthen the MERCOSUR social economy enterprises network. This program, designed as a strategy for fighting poverty and building a more democratic and sustainable society, is supported by the European Union. The universities’ Association contributes to identifying areas of opportunity for the promotion of innovative worker cooperatives and the AUGM

is developing several programs for the promotion and study of cooperatives, including the exchange of teachers between universities. The Committee of cooperatives and associated processes (PROCOAS), member of the association, has set priorities related to self-managed work and the social economy processes, and one of the objectives is to run a joint postgraduate course in social economy. The AUGM is an association of public universities in the MERCOSUR region, grouping 28 universities from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. ■

The director, Ricardo Díaz Iacoponi, started to write the screenplay in 2003 and the shooting began in January 2011 in a real worker buyout factory in Argentina. It will be shown in different festivals in Europe and in Cuba during November and December. To find out more please visit the website: www.indargentina-film.com.ar. ■

Workers and young cooperators FECOOTRA/ Red del Sur The Youth Space of the Federation of Worker Cooperatives in Argentina (FECOOTRA, in Spanish) represents youth cooperatives in the Youth Regional Committee of the ICA Americas. From our point of view, the unit is an indispensable part of building a genuine integrated and inclusive cooperative movement. This Committee is not alone, we are convinced that this is a fight at regional and continental level, said Gabriel Angel Di Francesco, ICA Americas representative of the Argentinian Regional Committee. The Youth Space develops training projects for young members of cooperative entities, exchanging tools to improve their status as cooperative members and as individuals within society. The general field of work is the training of technical and institutional members to drive strategic corporate decisions and focusing on efficient management based on cooperative values. ■


10 | NORTH AMERICA

WORK TOGETHER - ISSUE N° 5 - OCTOBER 2011

NORTH AMERICA CANADA

Young International cooperators network Worker cooperatives Network in Quebec (RESEAU) ach year, some 2,000 coopera-

E tors between the ages of 12 and 17 years old create their own worker cooperatives in Quebec. During the summer, they offer a variety of community services such as gardening, painting and security. The project “Coopératives Jeunesse de Services” (CJS, Cooperatives youth service), developed by the Network of worker cooperatives in Quebec (Réseau), enables these adolescents to have a summer job through setting up a worker cooperative. Since 1987, the project has developed at an incredible rate and this year there were 155 projects in the Quebec

Participants in the CJS program in Canada

region. RESEAU is working with other Canadian regions such as Manitoba, New Brunswick, and outside Canada with Burkina Faso, to implement this cooperative youth service. Integrated into the vision of development based on solidarity interoperation, RESEAU has an extended view of services in Canada and on an international level, an aspect which could widen the horizons of young people

involved in this project. For more information about the CJS please visit: www.reseau.coop/cjs. During the North American Worker Cooperatives Congress in Quebec, from 13th to 15th October 2011, there will be a workshop on this issue. For more information, follow this link www.cooperation2011.coop and learn more in French, English or Spanish. ■

UNITED STATES

Playing to learn: Co-opoly, the cooperative game TESA / CICOPA new game about cooperatives

A will become available soon. The recently launched fund-raising campaign for Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives has reached its objective and the TESA worker cooperative (Toolbox for Education and Social Action), established in the United States, will develop the game. Even if the minimum costs have been raised, the company is seeking to raise an extra 12,000 USD in order to make more copies and to build additional free copies of Co-opoly for educational resources. Organizations

and cooperatives can still contribute via Co-opoly’s website (http:// coopolygame.com/contribute) until November 1st. In the coming months, the game will be promoted at events across the United States to raise awareness for the International Year of the Cooperative. TESA is now working with colleagues in Uruguay to translate Co-opoly into Spanish. In Co-opoly, players collaborate to establish and run a democratic business. In order to survive as individuals and to strive for the success of their cooperative, players make tough

choices regarding big and small challenges while putting their teamwork abilities to the test. By playing Coopoly, players learn the unique benefits, challenges, and workings of the cooperative world in addition to some of the skills needed to participate in a cooperative. In the conferences where Co-opoly has been featured it has been a major success. Participants have called it fun and engaging and a great teaching tool about how to build and sustain cooperatives. ■


AFRICA

WORK TOGETHER - ISSUE N° 5 - OCTOBER 2011

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AFRICA OPINION

SOUTH AFRICA

When workers defend their jobs in South Africa Vishwas Satgar and Michelle Williams, COPAC (Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre) ine-Line, an engineering and production company located in the West of Gauteng, which employed 110 workers, experienced a tragedy in August 2010. Three workers were killed when a boiler machine exploded. It was then revealed that the owner had not contributed to pension funds and had stolen workers’ unemployment benefits. As a result, the trade union representing the workers, the Metal Electrical Workers Union of South Africa (MEWUSA), threatened to sue the company, which led the owner to file for bankruptcy and unilaterally close the factory.

M

The Union and the workers began discussing the possibility of the workers taking over the company and forming a worker cooperative. Events quickened in October-November when the workers discovered that the liquidator sold finished products and allowed the employer to remove machinery from the factory without consulting the union and workers. The worker’s only compensation was quickly evaporating. The prejudicial action by the liquidator came to a head when Mine-Line workers gathered at their factory to demand an explanation from the liquidator about the machinery and proceeds taken from finished products. The liquidator was unable to provide proper verification of the assets taken and explanations for the asset stripping. As a result, the workers decided that the only way to secure their benefits and future jobs was to occupy the factory. While the case is still unfolding, it provides an interesting example of a trade union linked worker cooperative, through a factory occupation. The occupation of the Mine-Line factory is both defensive and offensive. It is de-

Workers at the Mine-Line cooperative in South Africa

fensive because it tries to ensure benefits for workers from the liquidation process such as pension funds and the wages owed. However, it is also offensive in that it is trying to create a different system for the factory to one which is run by the workers. These men and women began immediately practicing democracy during the occupation and collectively set up the Mine-Line Tap Engineering Worker Cooperative, with the help of COPAC. All decisions are made by the worker members with a committee elected to facilitate the day-to-day process of the occupation and in promoting solidarity from other workers, unions, support organisations and communities. The cooperative’s main task at the moment is to defend the occupation and secure state support for their attempt to save their jobs and turn around the enterprise. Beyond the case of the Mine-Line factory There are two important implications, which highlight the wider significance of the Mine-Line factory occupation. First, in the context of the global economic crisis the government placed an initiative called “Framework for South

Africa’s Response to the International Economic Crisis”, on the national agenda. This framework committed the state to support stressed sectors of the economy through financial support and training linked to layoff schemes. Engineering is a key sector prioritised in this framework. However, in assisting the Mine-Line workers to set up a worker cooperative, COPAC discovered that governmental measures have not supported insolvent enterprises and have not assisted worker takeovers of enterprises in difficulty. A second important implication of the MineLine occupation and worker cooperative is that it shifts a debate about the property relations. In this adventure, the Mine-line workers are challenging the state to adapt the framework so that it supports worker cooperatives and not simply producing capital. COPAC is the Cooperative and Policy Alternative Center which aims to promote the cooperative idea, the building of the worker cooperative movement and cooperative sector development in South African society and on the African continent. ■


12 | ASIA

WORK TOGETHER - ISSUE N° 5 - OCTOBER 2011

ASIA JAPAN

Creating jobs in the areas hit by the earthquake Yoshiko Yamada, JWCU ver half a year has passed since the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the Tohoku region in Japan. While the emergency phase is over, rebuilding lives and communities remains a serious challenge. The unemployment rate is at its highest record and public unemployment benefits are starting to expire in mid October. Despite the recent announcement by the government to extend the benefits for 90 days, the main problem will not be solved unless jobs are created in this area.

O

To create job opportunities in areas hit by the earthquake, local municipalities are allowed to manage vocational training programs so graduates can start their own businesses, which could also benefit communities. Japan Workers’ Co-operative Union (JWCU) has been commissioned to manage such programs by four municipalities in Tohoku. The first program started on 3rd October. By the spring of 2012, there will be new worker cooperatives in Tohoku which have been created by graduates attempting to rebuild their own communities.

First day of the vocational training program in Tome City (Miyagi Prefecture)

Since the reconstruction of the Head Office in Sendai (Miyagi Prefecture) on 15th July, JWCU, as a national federation of cooperatives, has been working hard to cooperate with people in the affected areas. Their members (mostly young members) visited local municipalities, local groups and NGOs to listen to cooperators’ needs and to discuss possibilities to collaborate with them in order to create jobs and rebuild communities. They also emphasized the unique feature of worker cooperatives that not only provide training but also work with trainees to create jobs after their gradua-

tion, rather than waiting for someone to employ them. Each program integrates around 20 people who have lost their jobs due to the disaster. The scheme gives them the opportunity to gain the skills needed to start their own business. JWCU’s 6-month training program will emphasize how to create jobs, the current conditions and challenges in the community, community assessment, training to become homecare workers, business plan development and the final preparations in order to create a cooperative. ■

JAPAN / SOUTH KOREA

Increasing interest in worker and social cooperatives in rural areas HyungSik Eum, CICOPA wo different research teams

T from South Korea and Japan have visited European countries to study worker and social cooperatives in rural areas this September. In these two far-eastern countries, where rural areas have been less focused on politi-

cal priority during rapid economic development, interest on worker and social cooperatives as potential tools for rural development is increasing. A Korean research team visited Plunkett Foundation, some community owned shops in the UK and some worker

cooperatives and their regional federation in Andalusia, FAECTA, in Spain. A Japanese research team visited French worker cooperatives, mainly in the southern part of France and at the CICOPA and CECOP-CICOPA Europe office in Brussels. ■

Work Together Issue 5 - October 2011  

Joint publication of CICOPA and CECOP-CICOPA Europe

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