Labour leader Ed Miliband committed to “put co-operative values at the heart of Labour’s platform for government” on Friday (6 February), saying that if Labour wins the general election workers will have the right to buy out the firm they work for when it comes up for sale or is threatened with closure.
Writing in Co-operative News, Miliband also promised to improve access to finance for co-ops and social enterprises through the planned British Investment Bank, and welcomed key Co-operative Party policies on credit unions, energy, transport and football as important contributions to Labour’s election manifesto.
“The principles that guide the Co-operative Party are the same ones that guide me as Labour leader – to make the economy work for working people and tackle unaccountable concentrations of power wherever we find them,” said Miliband.
“Whether standing up to the vested interests in our economy, or devolving power in the public services that we rely on, these values are part of the fundamental change we need in the way that Britain is run and governed.
“Co-operative Party ideas for promoting credit unions, reforming our energy market, empowering consumers, increasing the voice of passengers and employees in how transport services are run, putting football fans back at the heart of their clubs, are already shaping our thinking.
“But I want to go further. I am determined to ensure that the election of the next Labour and Co-operative government marks the beginning of a new culture of co-operative entrepreneurship in the UK, with a growing co-operative, mutual and employee-owned sector. This will help to stem growing inequality and ensure that more working people are able to reap the rewards of economic success.
“To achieve this, more needs to be done to ensure that co-operative and mutual organisations are able to compete on a level playing field with PLCs and that there is a step change in access to finance for the social economy. That is why I am determined that Labour’s British Investment Bank will not just support small business and infrastructure investment, but co-operative and social enterprises too.
“Employee buyouts show how self-help and mutuality can build resilience into our economy, saving productive businesses and decent work. These buyouts can be an attractive route for business succession because they transfer ownership to people with a genuine interest in an enterprise’s long-term success. That’s why we should explore giving employees a statutory right to request employee ownership during business succession.”
Miliband’s words were welcomed by Karin Christiansen, the Co-operative Party’s general secretary, who called the Labour leader’s commitment “big news”.
“Giving people a voice in the places they work and the services they use: these are the principles which guide us as a co-operative movement,” she said. “And with our Labour partners, the Co-operative Party is putting them at the heart of the next government’s agenda.”
The Co-operative Party are calling on all supporters to spread the message about Labour’s commitment by sharing the above image on social media. Go to the Co-operative Party website for details.