Why put up with a boss when you can build your own democratic workplace?
Taking control of our own lives is the first step in the fight against the massive injustices and ecological devastation facing the world. Large corporations and governments create a deprived and deprived working class that sustains the capitalist system.
But there are many ways to look for alternatives to these labour relations and get out of the vicious circle that is to be unx working asalariadx in capitalism.
Encouraging and creating worker cooperatives will give us an opportunity to change a small but significant part of how things are. They are a way to gain control over the way we work and the impact our work has on others and our environment.
Cooperatives are the most democratic forms of work – in the literal sense of real democracy – where all their members benefit equally, creating a network of solidarity and fellowship that in turn affects the community at large.
In a workers’ cooperative, only the people who work for it are its members: there are no bosses or shareholders; the people who do the work who have the first and last word. All members have equal voice in the operation of the enterprise, including wages and working conditions.
Creating a workers’ cooperative is exciting and rewarding, but it is also full of challenges. It is like any other establishment or business except it is being done collectively and horizontally.
It is necessary to say that there are difficulties and that enormous amounts of time, commitment and learning are also used, but this is done collectively and we work together.
We hope that the following steps will guide you so that you can form your own cooperative and can help you get it up and running.
1.- Ideas and the group
The first to work on the fundamental bases on which the Cooperative will be built.
Bring together a group of people who want to work together and develop the same goals; who have the skills and attitudes to carry them out. Work affinity is very important here as opposed to emotional or personal affinity.
First, find out if a cooperative is the way you want to give your idea, since there are more alternatives to horizontal work such as being autonomous, and to find out how the decision-making and voting structure or decision-making process would be carried out The cooperative (for example, by consensus or by vote). Address these issues from the beginning and avoid problems in the future to part that will give the collective strength to face the first years of life.
Develop clear goals steps and thus verify that all people in the cooperative are pulling in the same direction.
2.- Work plan / service line / business
It would be a good idea to seek advice to develop your business / service plan. You need to conduct a market research: how much can you sell by how much? How will your products or services be marketed? Where are you going to work / sell? What working conditions will be the most suitable: remuneration, hours, holidays? How will the management of work or incoming money: collective management or a commission? What would financial planning look like: how much money would it take to start the cooperative and by whom? And last and very important what would be the procedure if someone wants to leave the cooperative and what would be needed to do it? Or what if the cooperative does not work, who takes care of what?
3.- Legal structure, money and paperwork
It will be necessary to decide on its legal structure and to elaborate the guiding document, a name and register is chosen. There are organizations that can help you do this, such as Radical Routes, Co-Radical Operatives UK and the Co-operative Hub. They can also help you sort your finances, ask about loan stock, and where to get loans. Make sure you have money and a bank account before starting, as well as local, equipment and insurance as well.
Notify HMRC when you have started working and how many people are employed and if applicable, register for VAT / VAT. Check all formalities: composition, statutes of the cooperative, employment policies, accounting, etc.
4.- Launching the Cooperative.
Officially you are ready to launch your cooperative to the four winds. And now you can start working: making bread, repairing bicycles or installing IT systems. Go out and spread the word! Let the word run! You can attract customers simply by mentioning that you are a workers’ cooperative – and do not forget to buy services and supplies from other Cooperatives when you can.
At the end of the first year…
Once you have survived a year of activity, things start to settle there will be the moment where you will have more idea of how things are going and if there is expectation to work in the future. Also, at the end of the first year you will need to evaluate the accounts and send the first tax return to the HMRC and send your annual return to the relevant regulatory body (Companies House or Finance Conduct Authority).
Fill out all forms related to employment (PAYE AND NI) and send them to HMRC as well.
And last but not least: open a few bottles and celebrate!
More information, check out these resources – many in English –
Radical Routes : How to Set Up a Co-op Workers includes information on how to make decisions, legal forms, co-operative functioning, deal with bureaucracy and much more.
Download it free from www.seedsforchange.org.uk, or order it for £ 7 (including p & p) at www.radicalroutes.org.uk
Seeds for change. They offer workshops and advice on how to work together, including facilitation, consensus and incorporation of consensus in their processes and constitution. They have a lot of written resources on operational work skills co-: www.seedsforchange.org.uk
Radical Routes: Cooperative networks providing mutual support among workers: www.radicalroutes.org.uk
Co-operatives UK, the national coordinator for campaigning and Co-ops, publish several very useful guides, including Co-Operative Code Governance workers, simply excellent series, including Simply Legal, Simply Governance, Simply Finance and the Conflict to Cooperation – From conflict to Cooperation. They also provide advice and other services, such as: the incorporation of the company www.uk.coop
The Cooperative Hub provides advice and training on the installation and commissioning of the Co-op: www.co-operative.coop/enterprisehub