December 15, 2022
Legislation modernising co-operatives must have stronger focus on workers co-ops Louise O’Reilly TD and Senator Paul Gavan

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Louise O’Reilly TD, and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers’ Rights, Senator Paul Gavan, have called on the government to be much more ambitious in their legislative attempts to modernise the co-operative sector.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“Reform in the co-operative sector is long overdue with the principal legislation dealing with co-operatives, The Industrial and Provident Societies Act, dating back over 100 years to 1893.

“Sinn Féin welcomes efforts to modernise the co-operative space as we are extremely conscious of the success of the co-operative model across Europe.

“From our engagements with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, there appears to be a lack of appetite to make the necessary progressive changes so Ireland can harness the benefits of workers co-operatives.

“Across Europe, worker co-operatives have been found to be more productive, more resilient and provide greater benefits to their workers, communities and societies compared to traditional businesses.

“Unfortunately, there appears to be an ideological opposition to workers co-operatives in the Department; it is vital that this attitude changes if we are to harness the benefits, and reap the rewards, of co-operatives.

Senator Paul Gavan said:

“The government’s draft legislation lacks any plans to recognise worker co-operatives as a distinct legal entity. Furthermore, there is no legal pathway for a worker co-operative buyout model to allow businesses facing succession to transfer ownership of the enterprise to the workers of that business.

“Another serious worry is the lack of an asset lock as part of the legislation to protect co-ops from being turned into private for-profit companies. This is what happened with many agricultural co-ops over the years to the detriment of farmers and members.

“However, the most glaring omission from the Bill is the absence of any plans to establish a Worker Co-operative Development Unit to actively support the development of co-ops. You only have to look to Scotland and the crucial role of Co-operative Development Scotland to see how critical a dedicated and well-funded agency is to the growth of this sector.

“Plans to update the existing legislation are very welcome, but I am genuinely surprised to see the lack of due diligence and study of best practice as established in other countries such as Scotland, France, Spain and Italy.

“We need a government that will not merely modernise legislation, but pro-actively look to grow and support workers co-operatives and recognise the huge untapped potential in this employment model.”

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