Monday, June 30, 2014

Worker-Owner Dividend 2014

Did you know that it is Weaver Street Market Co-operative Employee Policy that all WSM staff should be involved in the decision to set the size each year of the worker-owner dividend?

This was decided in 2007 after a full employee consultation exercise was held to establish which decisions within WSM should be subject to the official co-op policy that all employees be included in the making of important decisions.

You didn't know because WSM management have swept this policy under the carpet each year, and left it to the General Manager to set the size of the worker-owner dividend. With the WSM Board of Directors then rubber-stamping his decision.

Not this year. I have already written to the WSM GM (seeing as today is the end of the 2014 financial year) to ask him when and how the process will be established to include all staff in the setting of the 2014 worker-owner dividend.

Now. You might say. Big deal. You might say. There's a profit. Divide it in two. Half to consumer-owners. Half to worker-owners. There's the worker-owner dividend.

Not so fast. There is no such thing as 'a profit.' What is 'profit' is open to definition. And if this policy is to mean anything, it means that staff should be involved in the decisions setting the profit. Because it is the setting of the size of the profit which actually sets the size of the worker-owner dividend.

Now, you can't 'set' how much we sold and how much that cost. That's fixed. Ditto with rents, leases, bank interest, salaries already paid and the like.

But after that, essentially any expenditure which is optional is, in fact, profit. That includes things like how much we repay on long-term debt. How much we set aside for capital projects for next year. And so on.

Bloody hell. I hear you say. Those are huge decisions. We've never been included in those decisions. We'd need all sorts of detailed information to which we've never been privy before.

Exactly. And WSM management have been in breach of WSM co-op policy since 2007 by not including all WSM staff in all of those decisions, and by not furnishing us with all that information BEFORE those decisions were made.

And I do mean ALL staff. Not just worker-owners. That is what the policy states. ALL staff. And it's not just some boring rhetoric. Some of the decisions about setting profit include really important matters like, how much money do we want to set aside for salary increases (for all staff), perhaps in preference to that money being set aside for the worker-owner dividend? Some staff might take the view that some part of the 'profit' should be shared by all those who make it, not just worker-owners - which is precisely why the policy says it is ALL staff who make these decisions.

So. I will be looking forward to Ruffin's early response to my initial letter. This is potentially one of the most important democratic co-op processes in which staff have ever been invited to participate. And I repeat, not to include us in the setting of the size of the profit and then the setting of the size of the worker-owner dividend would put all management in breach of co-op policy, and render them open to discipline.

You can play your part by asking your unit management what they are doing right now to ensure that this process this year includes you. Remember, democracy isn't something that someone else does for you. It is what you do for you.