Crisis of democracy at the Co-operative Group

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The Emergency Motion was not allowed to be tabled at the Co-operative Group AGM.

Over 500 members signed it.

The appointed Chair and Board appointees have placed three Directors onto the Co-operative Group Board without an election. This is open to legal challenge as there were six candidates on the short-list.

The good news is that the AGM voted in favour of the continuing relationship with the Co-operative Party.

The Chair of the meeting demonstrated little understanding or interest in the Co-operative and the Movement to which it belongs.

Statement supporting the Democratic Governance Emergency Motion for the Co-operative Group AGM 16 May 2015

To the President, Vice Presidents and Co-operative Group Senate.

This Motion is a response to a crisis of democracy in the Co- operative Group. The National Members Council, who's role it is to ensure that the Co-operative stays true to Co-operative Values and Principles, is ignored by the Chair designate, appointed Board members and the Executive.

The Co-operative Movement is a whole collection of organisations which work together in order to transform Society for the better. Until now, the CWS, Retail Societies and what has become the Co-operative Group have been part of that Movement and that is why active co-operators have given their time and energy and creativity to the Co-operative Group. They would not give that to a supermarket retailer which is outside of the Co-operative Movement.

The Co-operative Group is now being managed by people from outside of the Co-operative Movement who have made clear that they want to disassociate themselves from the Co-operative Sector and its values and principles, in particular co-operation amongst co-operatives and democracy.

The Co-operative Movement receives much needed political support and representation from the Co-operative Party. The PLC's, private companies and the mainstream capitalist companies receive abundant political support and representation by their political parties. And they are more than willing to pay for it. It is not surprising that legislation and mainstream culture is weighted in favour of the capitalists. What the Co-operative Movement is able to pay is very small in comparison.

It is abundantly clear that the new Chair designate, Board appointees and Executive see the Co-operative Group as a money making machine outside of the Co-operative Movement and more in line with other big businesses.

The Co-operative has been different because it has been part of a Movement which works together co-operatively to change society for the better, providing an alternative model of business to all the others. This is commercial, social, political, educational and cultural, all aspects of the collectively agreed Co-operative Values and Principles. It has never been part of the private enterprise world because it's very purpose is opposed to that paradigm.

In these days when the private sector is taking over every aspect of peoples life experience, many have called for more diversity of business models. It is ironic that this is the time also when the Co- operative Group are joining all the rest.

Perhaps the new management of the Co-operative have underestimated the importance to the business of the many people who are loyal to the Co-operative, loyal because it is part of the Co-operative Sector. This would include both customers and people who give their time and energy to growing the Co- operatives credentials as part of a radical Movement. If the new management are allowed to run it as if it were like all the others, there would be no reason for any loyalty from people who we might call 'co-operators'.

The emergency motion for the AGM is receiving a lot of support from members. It addresses the breach of some of the Co- operative Values and Principles e.g. Openness, Democracy, Co- operation amongst co-operatives etc.

Steve Thompson
Ex. South Yorkshire & Chesterfield Area Committee
Ex. Member Transitional Members Council

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