Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Including Workers In Decision-Making

Even more progress. But here's the deal. It comes with a caveat. YOU have to get involved.

I've done what I can (so far) to help to create the space where all employees of Weaver Street Market Co-operative can be included in designing how it is we are more involved in the making of decisions that affect us.

In coming weeks, you should see an invitation in the WSM employee Market Messenger to offer input on how you would like to be able to participate in the making of the decisions which affect you, whether at department, store or co-op level.

At that point, I can do no more. The only way anything will happen, will change is if you read the Market Messenger and respond with your views.

If the powers-that-be see this whole drive for worker inclusion as merely my fad, then they will pass on by. It's in your hands to create a groundswell of numbers calling for more worker democracy in our co-op.

Right. Now, this all came about as the consequence of a meeting I had with Ruffin, the WSM General Manager, yesterday. Here's the e-mail I wrote to him after that meeting:

"Hey Ruffin,

Thank you for meeting with me yesterday. I think we managed to cut to the chase pretty effectively.

I'm not wildly happy that our pay raise for 2014 was not backdated to what had become the norm of the beginning of September. But what is done is done.

What was and remains of much more interest to me is finding a way forward that allows the regular implementation of at least the spirit of the WSM Board Policy requiring that WSM employees be included in decision-making which affects them.

We discussed in passing employee inclusion in the setting of each year's operational budget. Again, I was less interested in specific decisions, even huge ones like the budget, than I am in helping to create space on an ongoing basis for employees to be included in decision-making generally.

But, on the subject of the budget. I don't think your average employee wants to be involved in the nitty-gritty of determining how much we set aside to buy nuts and bolts. But I do think we should have a role in contributing to the big decisions that determine how much financial profit will be left at the end of the year: e.g. how much building work, how much expansion, how much for salary increase and how much for dividend.

Addressing the very specific point of worker remuneration, I would like to see the opportunity before the next round of pay raises, after the end of the Financial Year 2015 (June 2015), for employees to be asked for their views on how much of the monies that have been set aside for their compensation (salary increases, benefit increases and dividend), what ratio of those monies should be attributed to each.

Now, the overriding issue. How do we find a way to allow workers to feel that they are being included in decision-making that affects them, where they feel that their views on topics at all levels (department, store and co-op) are genuinely being sought, are being listened to, and then have some influence on the decisions made?

I have no interest in advancing my own views. They have been well canvassed elsewhere. What I would like is to help to create the space where all employees can have their opinions heard on what they would like to see by way of more inclusion in decision-making.

Deborah already wrote to me that you and she were going to review the Board Policy in this regard. I wasn't terribly happy with that response. I don't think that you and Deborah should be doing that on your own. I suggested that you might, through the 'Market Messenger,' invite the views of employees before undertaking your review, publishing the results, and seeking further input. We differed a bit on how one might word that invitation. But you seemed essentially to be in agreement.

I'm not sure it is sensible to attempt much more than that at this point. If there is an overwhelming and varied response to the invitation, it may well be that one wants to revisit the idea of a more formal consultation exercise or even a task force. But, why not let employees have their first shot at sharing what they want? Allowing them the opportunity to help to design how they might become more involved in decision-making.

I look forward to the more general invitation in the 'Market Messenger,' and hopefully to some inclusion in the making of the big decisions that affect employee remuneration in the setting of the next budget.

In the meantime, I will hold my Formal Complaint/Proposal in abeyance, pending the progress that we discussed. Many thanks.

All the best,

So. Over to all of you now. Make it count.