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Maybe a historic step
Crisises are typical moments for new ideas. Last summer, we saw German unions changing their minds about employee ownership, considering it as a tool against the financial crisis, and demanding capital stakes in troubled companies. "Arbeitnehmer sind die besseren Aktionäre" (the best shareholders are employee shareholders)!
Now it is in the USA: Last month, the United Steelworkers (USW) and Mondragon Corporacion Cooperativa announced a framework agreement for collaboration to establish workers cooperatives.
Unions are usually quite reluctant about employee ownership. This is normal. It is well the unions' role to defend workers against risks. Ownership is a risky matter, and this is also true for employee ownership.
Highlighting the differences between Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) and union co-ops, USW President Leo Gerard said, "We have lots of experience with ESOPs, but have found that it doesn't take long for the Wall Street types to push workers aside and take back control. We see Mondragon's cooperative model with "one worker, one vote" ownership as a means to re-empower workers and make business accountable to Main Street instead of Wall Street."
Votes, accountability… This is about governance, pointing out that ownership is not only a risk but also the ability to have a say. Probably your risk is even higher when you don't have any say.

Press review
Much new information about employee ownership in October 2009, with 1.538 articles in this press review  (on which 526 involving stock options and 390 about workers' cooperatives). We made a selection of  57 remarkable articles in 14 countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, United Kingdom, USA.
Australia: The Australian Employee Buyout Centre’s mission is to preserve, protect and enhance jobs through employee ownership.
Austria: Downward spiral must stop! Austrian union ÖAAB urges the introduction of employee ownership. Take-over of AMAG: Asking a minority stake for employees (25% + 1 share).
Canada: Pyxis set up an Employee Shareholders' Co-operative.
France: Steria celebrates forty years of employee ownership. New successful employee share plans for Cap Gemini, Lafarge, Axa, Rexel. The crisis does not really affect employee share plans; most companies maintain or develop new plans. Crédit Agricole Asset Management is now Europe's number 1 in employee savings and in employee ownership administration.
Germany: The new government will further promote employee ownership. Tax benefits were increased from 135 € to 360 € on April 1, 2009. It could now be increased to 2.400 €. On the other hand, capital stakes in troubled companies should be encouraged for employees as a compensation for wage cuts.
Italy: Government and social partners discussing about employee financial participation. At the same time, Italy is being transposing McCreevy's Directive on shareholders rights, and Italian employee shareholders' associations are in great danger.
Pakistan: Prime Minister Gilani launched the Benazir Employees Stock Option Scheme as a way to empower workers of State Owned Entities. Representatives of Pakistan trade unions reject it as an anti-labourer scheme.
Poland: Vice-Prime Minister Pawlak calls for a new privatisation phase based on employee ownership.
UK: A first in the Scottish local press: The workers from the West Highland Free Press complete an employee buyout of the independent title from its original shareholders. Computershare becomes the market leader in employee plans administration in the UK market.
USA: ESOP community celebrates the Employee Ownership Month. The United Steelworkers and Mondragon Corporacion Cooperativa announce a framework agreement for collaboration in establishing Mondragon cooperatives in the manufacturing sector within the United States and Canada.

The full press review is available on:

A political roadmap for employee ownership in Europe

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   With best regards



Marc Mathieu
Secretary General
Avenue Voltaire 135, B-1030 Brussels
Tel/fax: +32 (0)2 242 64 30
Web site:
EFES' objective is to act as the umbrella organization of employee owners, companies and all persons, trade unions, experts, researchers, institutions looking to promote employee ownership and participation in Europe.

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