|The late Fr Josemaria Arizmendiarrietta|
“Bruising industrial confrontations within Qantas and in Victorian hospitals during the latter half of last year pose pertinent questions as to whether alternative forms of ownership and control of workplaces might in some instances have more to offer than conventional wisdom may suppose.
“A case in point is the great complex of worker-owned manufacturing, retail, financial, agricultural, civil engineering and support cooperatives and associated entities headquartered at Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain.
“With Spanish unemployment levels following the global financial crisis standing at some 22 per cent, the Mondragon cooperatives have demonstrated impressive resilience, absorbing their share of economic hits and emerging largely unscathed.
“For example, Mondragon’s Eroski worker/consumer retail cooperative — hitherto Spain’s largest and fastest growing chain of supermarkets, hypermarkets and shopping malls — has over the last two years experienced for the first time since its inception in 1959 losses consequent on reduced consumer demand, and only in the current financial year anticipates a return to modest profitability.
“Fagor, Spain’s largest manufacturer of white goods, has successfully managed down production by 30 to 40 per cent in the face of a precipitous contraction of the consumer durables market.
“The cooperative group’s Caja Laboral credit union — effectively Spain’s ninth largest bank — is recovering from a 75 per cent reduction in its profitability, from 200 million to 50 million euros.
“And following a sharp reduction in the use by the cooperatives of temporary workers, overall employment has stabilised at around 83,800.
The cooperatives’ triumph is attributable overwhelmingly to key attributes that set them aside from comparable conventional enterprises.
“Not to be overlooked are the conceptual framework that underlies the cooperatives, as well as the enduring solidarity and subsidiarity values that enliven them. These are the legacy to the cooperatives of their founder, the Basque priest Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta.
“Internalised and in part secularised as the values and framework have so largely become, they stem directly from the unswerving adherence by Arizmendiarrieta to formation in the ‘see, judge, act’ or ‘inquiry’ study circle mould, as developed within the Young Christian Workers unionist movement.
“As recalled by one of the five lay co-founders of the cooperative group, ‘Father Arizmendi organised specialist courses on sociology to which he invited economics professors … His ecclesiastical training led him towards being a practical apostle. He not only tried to give guidelines on what should be the model for the ideal enterprise, but he put that social enterprise to which he aspired into practice.’”
Read the full article here:
Race Mathews,Catholic social solutions to workplace fairness, Eureka Street, 31/01/201
Race Matthews January 31, 2012