Individual Paper: Resisting the Imperative of Growth: The case of Radical Worker Co-operatives in Scotland
Workers co-operatives are part of the wider demand for a social and economic transformation towards a more sustainable economy. This paper offers insights about how principled worker co-operatives critically negotiate growth in the context of a highly deregulated market economy. Findings are the result of an ethnographic study of three principled Scottish worker co-operatives in three different sectors of the economy involving participant observation and interviews of workers. In all three case studies the economic viability of the businesses imposed a distinct requirement to grow. Reasons mainly revolved around living-wage and working hours. Expanding the business would first of all allow to pay living-wage to the workers that have set themselves a strongly ethical policy for running their business that was little profit-orientated. Secondly, with additional workforce workers could reduce excessive working hours required to deal with the existing workload – or new orders that they felt compelled to take if they did not want run the risk of being driven out of the market. Workers demonstrated a very critical attitude towards growth. Work-life-balance, challenges for integrating new workers into the democratic decision-making structure without fatally disrupting the workplace atmosphere and the co-op structure, the importance of thorough integration of new workers, and the future economic, social and political viability of the co-operative were main themes when reflecting on and debating the need to expand. These findings contribute to endeavours aiming at addressing growth-related challenges for alternative economic enterprises with a transformative claim towards a sustainable economic system. A claim that also transformative Degrowth initiatives embrace.
Start time: 11:15
Room: ABF (Lilla sallen)
Track: Organisational and Organising Practices