Värkkäys Osuuskunta (cooperative in Finnish) is located in the city of Saarijärvi, Finland.
The cooperative is the result of the vision of 8 people, with the desire to help their community to obtain more jobs. Before its creation, the Värkkäys cooperative was the focus of a preliminary study conducted by the City of Saarijärvi and funding from the Center Regional Council of Finland to determine whether the presence of such a cooperative was necessary.
Recognizing the importance of the existence of such a cooperative, the Center for Economic Development, Transport, and the Environment decided to provide the founders of Värkkäys a grant of 35,000 EUR to launch the cooperative. And that is how in 2017 Värkkäys was born.
For some time, the founders had noticed a lower employment rate within their region, than in the rest of Finland. Consequently, they decided to act and help unemployed people get jobs. Värkkäys cooperative makes this possible by taking charge of all the bureaucratic aspects.
How it works is basically, is that Värkkäys cooperative matches potential employees with employers who are in touch with them. What makes them stand out as a cooperative is the easiness they provide for the future employees. Workers who come to Värkkäys cooperative only need to sign the contract with them to start working for the cooperative. From this point on, the worker can be sent by the cooperative to various enterprises, that require in some cases full-time workers and in some cases, casual workers.
As for payment at the end of the service, the enterprise pays the cooperative the employee's salary, plus 5 percent for service management costs. The cooperative then takes care of paying its employees.
The main purpose of Värkkäys is to make labor as simple as possible, both for the companies who see the cooperative as a guarantee in the quality of the work that will be provided, but especially for the workers who often cannot manage the more administrative part of the work themselves.
The type of work they deal with ranges across all sectors, and Värkkäys always tries to accommodate the demands of its workers. As a result of this approach, they can now count on workers in the metal industry, graphics and advertising, tourism, catering, and forestry, to name a few. A large part of the work, however, is devoted to home help services.
The cooperative Värkkäys is usually in charge of finding jobs for its employees. The hours that employees devote to work depend on each person's needs. Currently the cooperative has full-time workers as well as part-time workers.
The cooperative currently has 30-40 employees, of whom 34 are members. To become a member (membership is optional), it is necessary to go through the Värkkäys administration, which will explain the functioning of the cooperative, and pay the membership fee. This fee is returned if the person decides to no longer be a member of the cooperative.
Each member has one vote in the general assembly that is held once a year. It is on this occasion that board members are elected, and they are currently 6.
The board has meetings around 6 times per year and decisions are made together according to the “one member, one vote” principle. To become board members, members must have been workers of the cooperative. The only person who is directly paid by the cooperative is Pia Reipas, the CEO, who is referred to by other members of the cooperative as “the soul of Värkkäys”, the person who makes the most disparate requests possible.
Given the cooperative's peculiar status, Värkkäys has had some hard times especially in making its structure comprehensible to institutions. The help of Coop Finland and their president, Jarmo Hänninen - a member of the CECOP Board - was crucial here. In fact, Coop Finland was in charge of providing their experience, knowledge and contacts and offered to mediate between the cooperative and the governmental institutions. Thanks to this tremendous work, the Finnish Employment Office has updated instructions and workers in Värkkäys are now more likely able to maintain their right to unemployment benefits like any other worker in traditional enterprise.
Being a cooperative, therefore, has been advantageous for Värkkäys, which has been able to count on the support of the cooperative network. Moreover, the biggest value for the cooperative related to the cooperative status is the principle of democracy. In fact, Pia, the CEO, believes it is essential to take decisions together with the members, always keeping in mind that the priority is jobs creation and not money. In addition, the structure of the cooperative is appealing to workers as it allows them to try out jobs in different fields, which can be useful for those who feel they have not yet found their path.
In the future, Värkkäys wants to continue to create jobs in its area, for example, through the design and implementation of projects related to environmental protection. Moreover, recognizing the importance of the cooperative movement, they hope to continue their work with Coop Finland.
An employment match made in heaven!
Värkkäys is a member of Coop Finland, our Finnish member.