The 2019 edition of the Civil Society Days took place on the 12th and 13th June, right after the European elections. Organized by the European Economic and Social Committee’s Civil Society Liaison Group, CECOP was involved in one the workshops. This Civil Society Days’ edition topic tackled the sustainability of our democratic system from several viewpoints and came up with recommendations for transforming our system into a more sustainable and thus resilient one.
SOLIDAR, organizer of a workshop about democracy at work, invited CECOP’s Secretary General Diana Dovgan and Olivier Leberquier, President of the French worker cooperative SCOP-TI to take the floor in order to present the worker cooperative model in the democratic governance of enterprises.
Other speakers included Javier Doz Orrit, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee and Aline Hoffmann, Head of the Unit for Europeanisation of Industrial Relations and coordinator of the Workers Participation Competence Centre at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).
By introducing the packed out audience to the EESC opinion paper: Towards a more resilient and sustainable European economy, Mr Doz provided definitions and terms of reference for the discussion.
CECOP’s Secretary General Diana Dovgan, presented the cooperative model is the way forward for democracy to thrive inside and outside the workplace.
Her intervention was followed by Olivier Leberquier: former trade union leader (CGT), he led the Unilever workers’ fight to protect their jobs when the tea giant Unilever (Lipton tea and Elephant tea) decided to close down the factory and delocalize the production to Poland. After 1336 days of occupation and fight, an agreement was reached and the workers decided to establish a worker cooperative called SCOP-TI and buy the factory out. Currently composed of 41 employees and 58 cooperators, SCOP-TI produces 22 different kinds of high quality teas and infusions distributed everywhere in France and beyond. The brand is called “1336” after the number of days the factory was occupied. Mr Leberquier insisted on the importance of democratic governance for the business to be sustainable and for the cooperators to enhance the trust among one another. SCOP-TI’s decisions are taken democratically with a proactive involvement of the cooperators in every field, also in salary grids decisions.
Every year a step closer to economic balance, SCOP-TI prides itself to have established a 1.25 maximum wage difference between elected management and worker-members.
Aline Hoffmann from ETUI explained that democracy at work is the way forward for better and democratic societies. Her presentation provided evidence for the mutually reinforcing relationship between democracy at work with civic democracy.
“Democracy at work is an implementation of the fundamental right to self-determination, and of the principle of bringing democracy to all spheres of life. Moreover, it makes the case for stakeholders’ interests to prevail over the shareholders’ ones, and it does not imply absolute control of the company by anyone. Finally, it leads to having equality-driven company boards. Overall, it clearly helped achieve the SDGs better and faster, not least by improving the life satisfaction of those involved”.
The workshop participants produced political recommendations for the attention of the European Economic and Social Committee, which need now to be taken on board and followed up by the Committee.
The recommendation includes a call for the Committee to issue an own-initiative opinion on democracy at work and its link with democracy in the public sphere.