Democratic Worker Cooperatives

Democratic Worker Cooperatives

The best way to get businesses to look after their workers, their communities, and their environment is if the workers themselves own the business and operate it democratically.

Worker cooperatives increase the engagement of people in their jobs because their income is tied to their productivity, which in turn increases the productivity of the business as a whole. Wage scales are more equitable, meaning less income inequality, and employment is much more stable in economic downturns because workers tend to democratically decide to take pay cuts instead of laying people off.

My policy suggestion is that workers should have a right of first refusal to buy their business if it is to be sold, along with government help for financing. This would help NZ move towards a worker cooperative sector of the economy that would compete with traditional employer-employee businesses, driving up working standards overall, and hard-wiring ethical decision making into the economy.

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    • Dennis Ingram
      tagged this with interesting 2016-12-03 18:36:28 +1300
    • Stathi Triadis
      commented 2016-12-01 20:39:44 +1300
      “Can we do it ourselves?”
    • Stathi Triadis
      commented 2016-11-30 22:06:03 +1300
      John, you seem to be assuming that workers are stupid and can’t “do their sums” to determine whether the business is a good buy or not. But to me it seems just as likely that another prospective buyer could get duped – more likely even because, like I said, the workers already know the ins and outs of the business.
    • Stathi Triadis
      commented 2016-11-30 22:01:56 +1300
      Why vote with your feet when you could literally vote for your boss?!

      It doesn’t matter how nice your boss is; at the end of the day, generally speaking, an employee’s compensation is tied to a labour market rather than their productivity, which is demoralising.
    • John Rusk
      commented 2016-11-30 22:01:29 +1300
      Stathi, in what I’ve seen and heard, in companies at or approaching bankruptcy, the severity of the situation is quite successfully withheld from staff until it can be kept secret no longer. Yes, they know there have been some problems, but they don’t know how bad they are.
    • John Rusk
      commented 2016-11-30 21:56:34 +1300
      Matt, in regard to your comment about dictatorships: I’ve worked under 11 CEO’s in NZ companies. Only one acted like a dictator. The other 10 did not. So I don’t feel that NZ law ingrains businesses as dictatorships. Rather than legislating for cooperatives,
      I would prefer to see TOP foster a vibrant economy so that, in those occasions when we do find ourselves working for dud bosses, we can simply vote with our feet.
    • Stathi Triadis
      commented 2016-11-30 21:53:09 +1300
      Hi John. That’s very unlikely. The workers are going to be the least fooled because they know the ins and outs of the business!
    • John Rusk
      commented 2016-11-30 21:47:37 +1300
      There might be accidental negative side effects here: Consider an owner-operated business that is struggling to make a profit. The owner wants out. They may take advantage of this scheme to flick ownership of the failing business on to the staff. Staff are left not just with insecure jobs in a failing company, but also with the debts incurred in buying it.
    • John Rusk
      tagged this with dislike 2016-11-30 21:47:37 +1300
    • Stathi Triadis
      commented 2016-11-28 22:40:11 +1300
      Matt, I totally agree on both of your points.
    • Matt Walkington
      commented 2016-11-28 22:26:54 +1300
      Stating the obvious but, along with the measures suggested, there would need to be some detailed policy around what type of internal structures qualified for the support. There would also have to be policy around business failure and around the continuance of the qualifying internal structure.
    • Matt Walkington
      commented 2016-11-28 22:19:43 +1300
      This policy is worth supporting even if only for diversity. However, the main reason to support it is so that people can be free from the tyranny of wage slavery. The present model supported by NZ Law ingrains businesses internally as dictatorships with command economies. Fostering worker owned cooperatives with democratic decision structures is a way for individual citizens to have a much greater say and stake in major parts of their lives.
    • Matt Walkington
      tagged this with essential 2016-11-28 22:19:43 +1300
    • Stathi Triadis
      commented 2016-11-26 21:45:52 +1300
      Hi Tim, Education is rather poor when it comes to cooperatives; e.g. business schools don’t often have courses on how to effectively run one even though it’s likely to be hugely different from the typical business. Your Average Joe doesn’t even know that the coop option exists. But if they had right of first refusal it would all be laid out in front of them: that they CAN do it, HOW to do it, and financial support. Without this support cooperatives can find it hard to obtain financing because the workers need to retain 100% control.
    • Tim O’Donnell
      commented 2016-11-26 21:31:51 +1300
      If people want to do this they can now. Why should the government get involved in you buying a business?
    • Tim O’Donnell
      tagged this with dislike 2016-11-26 21:31:51 +1300
    • Renate de Ryk
      tagged this with important 2016-11-26 18:05:58 +1300
    • Stathi Triadis
      commented 2016-11-26 10:00:08 +1300
      Hi John, at the end of the day, the few people in control of any profits (oftentimes remote shareholders that have no loyalty/connection to the workers/communities) will do what they will to benefit themselves as a first priority. I don’t believe any extra education can overcome this.
    • John Rusk
      commented 2016-11-26 09:41:57 +1300
      I agree that business leadership often doesn’t serve employees, or the community, well. Personally, I would rather see this addressed through better training in the principles of evidence based management – ideally with all high school students being introduced to the basics.
    • David ten Have
      tagged this with low priority 2016-11-26 05:03:36 +1300
    • Richard Wyles
      tagged this with dislike 2016-11-26 02:25:36 +1300
    • Stathi Triadis
      published this page in Suggestions 2016-11-26 00:10:13 +1300