Gavan pledges Legislative Support for Worker Co-ops
Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has confirmed that Sinn Féin in Government would implement a range of legislative proposals to give real supports to the growth of Worker Co-Operatives in Ireland, including the right to convert their employment into a co-operative business.
The ‘Right to Own’ proposal would see staff obtain a statutory right to request employee ownership during business succession-on the premise that the Business will be converted into a workers’ co-operative.
Speaking at a meeting organised in Dublin by the Think-tank for Action on Social Change (TASC) on the theme of Workplace Democracy, Senator Gavan said;
“These proposals are part of a suite of new policy and legislative plans to promote workplace democracy and the growth of worker owned enterprises to bring greater balance to our economy between Foreign Direct Investment and indigenous enterprise.
“Giving workers a statutory ‘Right to Own’ option, when facing a change of ownership or closure, would assist in dealing with the issue of business succession, which is a major issue across the EU.
“We are proposing that workers be given a first refusal to own the company which they work for if that company is going to be sold or closed. The workers will then convert that business, with the financial and expert advice of a Worker Co-operative Unit, into a workers’ co-operative enterprise.
“Each year across Europe, 150,000 enterprises face the issue of business succession. In Ireland, only one in seven SME’s have a succession plan in place. This issue has been addressed in a number of European countries through the introduction of a Worker Co-operative Buyout model. What we want to see is workers in Ireland be given that same right.
“Sinn Féin believes that the development of a Worker Co-Operative Sector has the potential to both create and save thousands of sustainable well-paid jobs across the country. Anyone doubting the jobs potential of worker co-operatives need only look at Mondragon in Spain or the John Lewis Partnership in Britain.
“In Italy, worker co-operatives employ 800,000 workers, in Sweden Worker Co-ops account for 13% of GNP, and in Finland it is an incredible 21%. In contrast to this, the latest research for the South of Ireland suggests there are only 19 worker co-operatives in existence, employing 135 people. We really need to take this sector more seriously and unlock the potential of this employment model.
“Under these proposals, Sinn Féin will enable Worker Co-ops to prosper by establishing dedicated legal and institutional support. Key proposals are to recognise Worker Co-Operatives as a distinct legal entity, to make it easier to establish a worker co-op- (three-member minimum rather than seven), and give workers a statutory right to request employee ownership during business succession.
“In addition, we will establish a new dedicated Worker Co-Operative Development Unit to help build the necessary networks of support, advice and funding to allow this model to prosper.
“It is time for Ireland to make the investment and legal changes required to enable Worker Co-ops to thrive and build democracy in the workplace.”