Turn employees into partners

While big German shareholder-owned corporations have worker representatives on their boards, The Co-operative paradoxically has no formal representation for employees. Studies have shown that employees who know they have a real stake in their enterprise perform better. John Lewis/Waitrose is one of the most successful retailers in the UK.

It simply is no answer to say that employees are encouraged to become members. A membership structure designed for millions of customers does not work for 100,000 employees. Existing rules are more concerned with keeping employees out of elected positions than encouraging them to participate.

We need a structure designed to give employees a real say, with a guarantee of representation at least at board level. We should be inviting them to become our partners in rebuilding The Co-operative.


I would like to see direct elections from employees at every level of the Co-op's democracy, and designated seats on every Committee and Board, whatever other changes are made. As a preparation for this I suggest post-induction training be made available to any staff interested, at store level and in works time, in what a Co-operative is about, our values and principles, and our democratic structure. Employees should be encouraged to stand for office, and there should be designated employee seats on all committees, right up to Board level. Why do I feel strongly about this? As a former employee (food) myself, I feel strongly that our employees are the Co-operative's front line - whether in recruiting new members, explaining what the Co-op actually is, answering questions, explaining just why there was no 'divi' last year... we expect them to do this without equipping them with information and training, and without giving them representation.

Graham Melmoth introduced Values and Principles training for all employees following the attempted sale of the business by Allan Green. Within the Co-operative Group there are already directly elected member employees on regional boards and the majority of the exec boards are employees. All employees have the opportunity of putting themselves u for elecetion - however - elected employees within the business are viewed in the same way as Union activists i.e. trouble which needs to be contained, this is at odds with Co-op Values & Principles. On the face of it it would seem good to have a Methodist Minister on the board to demonstrate how ethics in action ..........

I agree with Kate Jones's suggestions. I also think ALL employees should be required to be Members.

The Co-operative Group has a no-politics-at-work rule for its employees, wisely, I think, given how much conflict political disagreements can quickly generate. But it doesn't sit well with having a Co-operative Party that is, to all intents and purposes, part of the Labour Party. Is this one reason why "Existing rules are more concerned with keeping employees out of elected positions than encouraging them to participate"?