On May 16, 2022, CECOP participated in the Strategic Dialogue meeting about essential services organized by the European Commission’s DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion. The information gathered during this meeting will be used to write a Staff Working Document for the Commission that will outline the state of play on access to the six essential services in the EU for people in vulnerable situations. Defined in the 20th principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights, these essential services concern access to water, sanitation, energy, transport, financial services, and digital communications.
CECOP took this as an opportunity to bring in the spotlight the work being done by social and worker cooperatives, the importance of their presence for the communities they serve, and the difference in nature of their work as a cooperative in comparison to for-profit actors. We reaffirmed our belief that the EC should recognize the role of cooperatives in the provision of essential services and encourage Member States to adopt favorable legal and policy frameworks to facilitate their creation and development.
Cooperatives from our network provide essential services for all groups of the population, including vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. They bring solutions to overcome barriers in access linked to income, age, territorial inequalities and spatial segregation.
The cooperative model is oriented towards fulfilling its stakeholders’ needs, as it offers the democratic participation of workers and beneficiaries in the governance. Moreover, it ensures that most of their profit is reinvested to guarantee the quality, affordability and longevity of the services.
An example of such initiative in the energy provision is Enercoop, a social cooperative that was created in 2005 to provide a citizens’ alternative when the French electricity market was open to competition. It is a multistakeholder cooperative gathering actors who have a role to play in the provision and consumption of renewable energy, such as consumers, producers, workers, communities and partners. Today, Enercoop is 350 producers strong, 100% renewable, non-profit oriented energy network, that is composed of 50,000 members from all around France.
Cooperatives are community based, worker-owned structures that are established because of the lack of such services in the area or as an alternative and sustainable model to profit-oriented providers.
Titi Floris is another example from France and represents a good practice from the transport sector. Founded in 2006 by two co-founders, this worker cooperative that specializes in the transport of people with disabilities, is now composed of 2 000 employees. In response to the insufficient offer of specialized transport services in the Loire region, the cooperative is today present in the entire west coast of France. It has also branched out to other sectors such as care and catering.
Another example of the community-based approach from Italy is the Cooperative Gea. Based in the province of Salerno, Gea, established in 1989, is a social cooperative of type A and B. This means that their community implication is twofold. First, they provide services to the community, in this case childcare, care to the elderly, catering, transport for people receiving care, sanitation, and cleaning services. Second, they foster the integration of disadvantaged groups by employing them. Following the COVID pandemic, they answered the sanitation needs that arose by developing a disinfection service for hospitals and schools. In Italy, many cooperatives active in the sanitation sector have as core mission work integration of disadvantaged groups.
The recognition and valorization of social and worker cooperatives is crucial to favor the development of qualitative, affordable and inclusive essential services sector in the EU.
At CECOP, we will continue our efforts to promote the cooperative model as a sustainable and social solution to the EU’s challenges.