Just like the previous years, 2015 was a good period for worker cooperatives. In fact, 8,533 first jobs were created in new cooperatives. To put this into perspective, since the crisis began in 2008, the number of cooperatives created has increased by 75% and 77.4% are worker cooperatives.
There was a 4% increase in the number of worker cooperatives in 2015 compared to 2014. These enterprises weather the crisis better than other types of enterprise. According to the Ministry of Labour, 12% fewer jobs have been lost in worker cooperatives than in other sectors of activity.
These figures were presented by the Spanish Confederation of Worker Cooperatives (COCETA) at its General Assembly held in Murcia (Spain), which also saw the launch of its activities to mark its 30th anniversary.
COCETA is the representative body of worker cooperatives in Spain. It represents 17 regional organisations and 17,054 worker cooperatives, which have 301,867 members registered on the social security system.
“No other organisation in the world of associations is represented in the same way as COCETA is at world level”, explains its President, Juan Antonio Pedreño. Indeed, amongst other things, COCETA currently holds the presidency of CICOPA, the vice-presidency of CECOP and the presidency of Social Economy Europe. In Spain, Pedreño is also the President of the social economy organisation, CEPES.
COCETA and its regional organisations work hard to establish entrepreneurial projects. Its main focus is to create jobs, keep them and increase their number. Worker cooperatives create stable, quality employment. "80% of the contracts are permanent contracts of employment”, says Pedreño, adding that “82% are full-time contracts”.
The new cooperatives are experiencing a massive influx of young people and in many regions of Spain 80% of the members are under 35.
Furthermore, Spanish worker cooperatives have a good reputation for saving jobs by taking over enterprises in crisis. In fact, Spain is the leading country in Europe with regard to taking over failing enterprises: in 2015 alone, close to 40 enterprises were converted into cooperatives, thereby saving jobs which otherwise would have been lost.
There is every indication that the future is also promising, since the members of COCETA believe that, despite the fact that the crisis continues to be on-going, 1,500 new cooperatives could be created by the end of the year. This would generate 10,000 new jobs and an increase of 35% compared to 2015.
30 years of cooperatives
The vice-president of COCETA, Malena Riudavets, was given the task of launching the image and activities designed to mark the organisation’s 30th anniversary. COCETA was established in 1986 as a confederal and multi-sectoral organisation. “The fact that we are celebrating its 30th anniversary is a reflection of its persistence and integrity”, says Riudavets. "It is as fresh and enthusiastic today as it was on the day it was created".
Over the course of the last 30 years, COCETA has positioned itself as a commercial organisation which ensures the representation, coordination, information and training of worker cooperatives.
For example, it has lobbied in favour of reduced social security contributions and higher benefits for its members who have a disability, as well as for those who have been the victim of sexual violence or terrorism. It has also encouraged the development of the capitalisation of unemployment benefits for the unemployed. More recently, it has lobbied successfully for the application to cooperatives of the aid provided under the 2015-2016 programme to develop and promote the Social Economy, as well as the measures which integrate the law introducing the Second Chance Mechanism.
During the celebrations, COCETA presented the logo it has designed for its 30th anniversary. It has been created by a cooperative from Valencia called Collage-no, which was created in 1992 by female designers who had just finished university. This is a good example of the fact that it is possible to create a different type of enterprise, even if the people involved are young.
A series of activities, conferences, workshops and seminars will be held across the various regions of Spain over the course of this year. A video competition for schools has also been launched and the intention is to also organise three further competitions with a view to finding the best literary essay, the best scientific article and the best press article on worker cooperatives.
Furthermore, COCETA has asked to be received by the King and it will also submit a similar request to the new Spanish President, as well as to the Parliament and the regional governments. It is also preparing a commemorative book to mark its 3oth anniversary and a video on cooperative work, as well as a new issue of its publication, Women and Cooperatives.
Murcia and public policies
One of the reasons why COCETA chose the city of Murcia to host its General Assembly was to thank the region for its public policies in support of cooperatives. “We are well aware of the fact that all of the political parties in the Murcia region have expressed their support for the world of cooperatives and the Murcia Union of Worker Cooperatives (Ucomur)", says Pedreño.
The outlook is positive across the whole of the country. “The political parties are receptive to our proposals; indeed they even seek our input when they are in the process of preparing action programmes”, he added. “The next cooperative must recognise the importance of the role played by cooperative so that they can be represented in all of the employment policies”.
COCETA is seeking greater representation within the institutions: a Secretariat of State for the Social Economy and the insertion of social clauses. It is also calling for the removal of the barriers which are currently hindering the creation and growth of cooperative enterprises, as well as for the effective development of the plan of 32 measures designed to support the social economy, which has already been approved in Spain.
Moreover, COCETA is calling upon the political parties to allocate higher budgets and to develop specific measures and proposals. Pedreño concluded that, “Once people see that a consensus has been established amongst the politicians in favour of cooperatives and the social economy, they will understand its importance and this may be very significant”.