In a workers’ co-op, the members are the people who work in, or for, the business. From actors to artists to cafés, trainers to growers to designers, they share aims around decent conditions and terms of work; a culture of equality; a belief in developing their members and their skills; and a commitment self-managing their working lives.
London’s worker co-ops include Cycle Training UK in Bermondsey, Cave Co-operative Sustainable Architects in Kingston, OrganicLea growers in Walthamstow and Calverts graphic designers and printers, based in Bethnal Green. These are well established co-op businesses, environmental champions, and all leaders in their respective trades and professions. They are worker-owned and controlled, providing services and products to members and customers in line with co-op ethics, values and principles.
Worker-owned and controlled businesses the UK are among Europe’s most radical co-ops. They elect a Worker Co-operative Council, which published the excellent Worker Co-op Code, a quick guide to what worker co-ops are all about. It’s been translated and published in several languages. Compared with worker co-ops in countries like Argentina, Spain and Italy, worker co-ops in the UK are quite a small sector, but we’re aiming to grow. We organise on a European level through CECOP and globally through CICOPA, the International Organisation of Industrial and Service Co-operatives.
If you’re interested in starting a workers’ co-op, want to convert your workplace into one, or just want to visit a co-op and meet some of their members – please get in touch. Or read on for a bit more info about some of the co-ops mentioned above…
Calverts are a worker co-op based in east London who’ve been doing quality design and print since the late 1970s. They’ve recently done work for Muji and the British Museum, and helped fellow co-operators at Supporters Direct with their policy papers.
Organiclea is a community food project based in the Lea Valley in north-east London. They produce and distribute food and plants locally, and inspire and support others to do the same. With a workers’ cooperative at their core, they bring people together to take action towards a more just and sustainable society.
They sell food, grow food and help others to grow food too. Not only that, but they also connect their work to a wider vision for a more just and sustainable food system locally, nationally and international and are part of the Land Workers Alliance, the Community Food Growers Network and the Food Sovereignty Movement.
Black Cat Cafe
The Black Cat Cafe is a 100% vegan, not-for-profit and cooperatviely run cafe in Hackney. They are a small workers co-operative that aims to promote an ethical lifestyle. They’ve got a great review in the Hackney Citizen and apparently do the best vegan breakfast in London.
Cycle Training UK
Cycle Training UK is a not-for-profit workers’ co-operative promoting cycling for all. They have trained over 80,000 people to cycle skilfully and confidently on roads. As well as delivering urban cycling sessions to individuals, schools, workplaces and organisations, they offer maintenance sessions, instructor courses and driver training.
Check out our resources about how to Start a Worker Co-op