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Worker Cooperatives in the UK develop a Solidarity Fund to reinforce the movement

23 October 2015 [ English ] français ]

Cooperators united to strengthen the worker cooperative movement in the UK. A group of worker cooperatives have created a solidarity Fund to manage a common Fund paid by the monthly subscription of individuals, worker cooperative members, worker cooperatives or any organization with “an interest in supporting collective ownership and industrial democracy”.

The idea was developed in May 2014 when the funding for worker cooperative development ended inside the intersectorial organization Co-operative UK and the collapse of its biggest member, The Co-operative group occurred. Thus, according to Sion Whellens, a member of the worker cooperative Calverts “a resource needed to be found and the idea of a Fund was developed during a ’brainstorming’ session at the first Worker Cooperative Weekend”.

The Fund has for mission to support activity that: provide relevant education and training, bring worker co-operators together, identify and spread best practice in worker co-operation, strengthen the self-reliance and autonomy of workers’ co-operatives and guarantee the continuity of worker co-operative culture and organization, through micro-financing. For now, the Fund has 460 subscribers, which accumulates to an income of around GBP 25,000 per year.

The Fund is micro-financed through weekly-subscription by individual worker co-operators and supporters. All decisions about the Fund are taken by consensus through an internet platform called Loomio. It is important to note that the Fund is not a charity, trading enterprise or society. “The Fund is not legally incorporated, since we do not need to make trading or legal contracts, but this may change if the Fund network becomes more ambitious.”, declared Sion Whellens.

The Fund is an insurance pool used to reduce the financial risks to individuals or organizations wanting to put on skills training or events for work cooperatives. It, essentially, insures that those events, although usually self-funded, do not lead to a loss of money. Moreover, the Fund can also offer financial support in small amount to foster cooperative mentoring and mutual support activity between them. “For instance, we have just agreed to pay travel and accommodation costs for members of Belfast Cleaning Society to visit a new cleaner’s cooperative in East London, Custom House Cleaning”, adds Sion Whellens.

Internationalism being a priority, the Fund is not limited to the United Kingdom.
“Ultimately, of course, our goal is to build a larger, more powerful, more effective network of worker co-ops so that more people can take control of their working lives through collectively-owned and managed enterprises,” concludes Whellens.