Worker co-operatives and trade unions: Exploring relations in the Asia-Pacific region

13 October 2022

BCCM’s Melina Morrison and Antony McMullen recently attended a webinar hosted by CICOPA and CICOPA Asia-Pacific, “Worker cooperatives and trade unions: Exploring relations in the Asia-Pacific region”. A sector organisation of the ICA, CICOPA describes itself as the “International Organisation of Industrial and Service Cooperatives”.

Designed as an opportunity to explore synergies between worker co-operatives and trade unions, the event provided positive recognition of the work that unions and co-operatives do. Sharan Burrow, an Australian who serves as the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, explained that like unions, co-ops can also contribute to improved worker rights and protections.

A recurring theme throughout the webinar was the common vision that unions and co-ops share, and how by working together these organisations can further multiply their impact and ultimately secure safe and fair conditions for workers around the world. Osamu Nakano, CICOPA AP and JWCU, pointed out that worker-owned co-ops occupy a unique space in the co-operative sphere in that they seek optimal outcomes for both workers and owners.

Best-practice examples from India, Japan, Australia and the Philippines were shared.

Colin Long, Just Transitions Organiser for Victorian Trades Hall Council and founder and board member of Australian co-op Earthworker, Cooperative Power Australia spoke about how Earthworker brings together a diverse group of people “to solve the social and environmental problems”.

Iñigo Albizuri, CICOPA President, pointed out that “the times are changing, markets and businesses are changing, and trade unions and co-ops need to work together – we have exactly the same roles: working for social transformation.”

Through future collaboration, unions and co-operatives have an exciting opportunity to enact real change and protect the wellbeing of those who are often overlooked in the race towards maximum profits.

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