“Even though workers’ buy-out (the transfer of enterprises to worker cooperatives) cannot be considered as a panacea, it has been up to now much ignored and/or under-estimated as an option by policy-makers, enterprise owners and employees in many EU Member States”, explain the presentation of the Conference Program. Social economy players, public authorities, trade unions and civil society representatives discussed at the different panels the key elements of successful transfers, the situation in different EU member states, as well as the role that local and regional authorities can play in creating a conductive environment.
Saving Jobs! The project, which had a duration of eighteen months, tries to translate the Spanish experience and knowledge about the transformations of companies to worker cooperatives, to other countries of the European Union. It is one of the two pilot projects supported by the European Commission, which seeks to shed light on how to save jobs through the transformations. The transmission of venture capital firms to their workers, through the cooperative formula, can be done basically in two situations. The first can be the lack of a successor, after a retirement in a company without generational replacement. That is the case of healthy firms. The second case, more known at the media, is when the companies are in bankruptcy, so the workers take control, using the worker cooperative formula. From the beginning of the project, cooperative organizations that are part of the Spanish Confederation of Worker Cooperatives (COCETA) have been working specifically on these issues on a daily basis. Only during the project length they accounted more than 70 companies transmitted. The experts of the Spanish organizations that are part of COCETA from Navarra (ANEL), Andalucía (FAECTA), Murcia (UCOMUR), Catalunya (FCTC) and the Comunidad Valenciana (FEVECTA), produced working materials that where proved and evaluated by the European organizations Cooperatives UK, Kooperationen (Denmark), NAUWC (Poland); and REVES, the European Network of Cities and Regions for the Social Economy, that organized the final conference. They have also traveled and made trainings in each of the countries that were part of the project.
Conference The event of Brussels, attended by politicians and technicians of the European Parliament and the European Commission, was opened and closed by Juan Antonio Pedreño, President of COCETA, as well as of Social Economy Europe. "We all need to work together, at the local and the European level, to promote the business recovery, recycling and the second opportunity for many companies that with the tools and appropriate support could be saved," he said in one of his interventions. "COCETA has been working since the eighties, and has been able to recover and transmit companies through the cooperative formula. In this way, COCETA has saved hundreds of companies and thousands of jobs. In 2015 the European Commission was able to see the potential of this phenomenon and through the DG Grow support encourage the cooperative entities of Europe to present projects and work together. Here we are, willing to work further". Joining Pedreño, the journey was opened by Karl-Heinz Lambertz, president of the Committee of the Regions, who praised the work of the social economy in the fight against unemployment; and Jan Olsson, co-president of REVES. During the interventions, Paloma Arroyo, the director of COCETA, made a brief of the project, and presented some of the materials, a video and a microsite that include all of the materials prepared (that can be seen at the link: savingjobs.coceta.coop.
Panels The first panel “Transfer of enterprises to employees - Discussion around the state of the art of policy in four EU Member States”, counted with the participation of the members, and another stakeholders, who explained that the project served their organizations by helping them to know and arise the attention of the possibilities for the transmition of enterprises, and the benefits of the workers cooperative model. Inspiring practice cases and the role of public authorities, where also pointed, in themes as communications, relations with the local authorities, financial support, motivation of workers/employees, and the crucial role of an adapted training offer. The afternoon Panel discussion: “Role of public authorities ”, counted, between others, with Ourania Antonopoulou, Alternate Minister of Labour, Social Insurance and Social Solidarity, Greece, and local authorities from Catalunya and Murcia (Spain). Antonopolou asked the European Commission to constitute, together with experts, a task force which would pool all the knowledge and know-how on the topic of transmissions and buy-outs. Such taskforce could help Member States or regions to implement strategies promoting and implementing transfer to worker cooperatives or work on very specific questions related to that topic.
The final interventions, about the future of actions related with the workers buyouts and transmitions, counted with the participation of Ulla Engelmann, European Commission, Head of Unit, Clusters, Social Economy&Entrepreneurship, DG Growth, as well as Jens Nilsson, MEP, that agree of the need of following with this kind of projects.