Michael Noonan TD, Minister for Finance will officially launch the Limerick Workers Cooperative at a seminar at The Kemmy Business School in the University of Limerick on Saturday 27th October 2012.
Bill Kelly of Meitheal Mid West and the Workers Cooperative Network, which is coordinating the upcoming event, explained that the “Reinventing Limerick - The Cooperative Way” seminar will have two broad themes.
“Following on from last year’s visit to Limerick by the Mondragón Cooperative, we are inviting leading worker cooperatives from Britain and Ireland, both north and south, to tell their story of how they built their businesses. The second theme will focus on the launch of Limerick’s and Ireland’s first-multi stakeholder cooperative he stated.
Mr. Kelly explained that the development of the Limerick Workers Cooperative represents an innovative approach to developing business opportunities for new and existing businesses in the region.
“The purpose of this co-operative is to empower individuals and businesses in Limerick to work together and by doing so benefit from being part of a larger group. The evidence from other countries where cooperatives have been established show that such groups are more adept at climbing the value chain, engaging in R&D, and keeping jobs & wealth in their local communities. They also have more buying and bargaining power than individual members might ordinarily have. Industrial worker cooperatives are competitive, innovative and profitable business entities which are proved to be more resilient that conventional businesses in times of recession. This development is of particular local significance in light of recent figures from the Central Statistic Office (CSO) that confirm 7 of the country's 10 worst unemployment blackspots are in Limerick he added.
Mr. Kelly continued: “By working with the Workers Cooperative Network, setup in June 2012 to promote the interests of worker cooperatives across Ireland, the Limerick Workers Cooperative will look to expand its scope as its membership grows. This objective is made more achievable through the support of Limerick Local Authorities, a development which represents a new departure for Irish cooperatives which have normally been focused on individual business sectors.
Mr. Kelly said that through the establishment of the Limerick Workers Cooperative, the region had the opportunity to learn from and follow the lead of industrial cooperatives that have achieved international success from humble beginnings, such as the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation headquartered in the Spanish Basque country.
Established in 1955 through a coop of five workers assembling paraffin heaters, Mondragón is now the largest employer in the Basque country, employing more than 80,000 worker/owners in multiple areas including industry, banking and consumer sectors. There are also 14 research centres, vocational training and teaching centres, including a university that has 4,000 students.
According to Mr. Kelly: “In the midst of the current financial crisis, the Basque country continues to enjoy a higher credit rating than the Spanish sovereign. There is a 7.9% unemployment rate in the Basque Country compared to over 22% for Spain as a whole. 20% of Mondragón’s 2011 turnover is from products and services which didn’t exist five years ago, such is the quality of their high tech research & development and their consequent intellectual property. By establishing the Limerick Workers Cooperative in 2012, the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives (IYC), we are hoping to sow the seeds that will eventually see Limerick become a leader in the development of a cooperative-
Speaking ahead of the seminar Professor Fred Freundlich of the Mondragon University, part of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, stated: �Mondragon’
We wish Limerick well in their efforts to adapt the Mondragon model to their local circumstances and promote stable economic development through enterprises that are both economically successful and broadly socially beneficial. We hope Limericks efforts will be as rewarding for Limerick as the Cleveland Ohio efforts are for Cleveland - in the setting up of the Cleveland Evergreen Cooperative Group. Mondragon is also looking forward to participating in the Interreg “Cooperatives for Growth” bid being led by the new Limerick Local Authority and the University of Limerick," Professor Freundlich added.
Among the speakers at the upcoming day-long seminar at The Kemmy Business School will be representatives from British worker coops, environmental science instrument manufacture Delta-T Devices, international renewable energy pioneers Dulas Engineering, and Specialist Wholesaler The Suma Coop, The Unicorn Coop (Manchester’
“Reinventing Limerick - The Cooperative Way” will be opened by Michael Noonan TD, Minister for Finance, at 10:30 am on 27th October 2012.
The seminar is open to anyone wishing to be involved in the development and ownership of Limerick’s cooperatives, or wishing to find out more about the cooperative movement (unemployed - graduates & non graduates are particularly welcome). The event is free but interested persons are requested to register in advance at the Workers Cooperative Network site, www.workerscooperativenetwork.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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