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EU Commissioner Vladimir Špidla said he would consider
the role and position of the co-operative voice in any review
and modernising of the Social Dialogue.
(Co-operative Convention – Brussels, June 2005)

EU Commissioner Vladimir Špidla re-affirmed his support

for the co-operative model of enterprise as part of the Single
Market and the wider European social reality. He told that he
“... was convinced about the co-operative specificities and
would fight to maintain that ideal” and he would “... need
their opinions for the continuing harmonisation of the Single
Market procedures and was ready to enter into dialogue with
(Conference on the Co-operatives & the European Social
Dialogue – Prague, June 2007)


Why a specific role in the European social dialogue for co-operatives? 6
Co-operatives added value to some European key issues 7
The European social dialogue 8
What place and which role for co-operatives in the European social dialogue? 10
The context 11
The objectives 11
Implementation of the SPP Program 12
Structure of the European co-operatives 13
Structure of the enquiries 14

Co-operative specificity 105
Representativeness 107
Figures by country 114
The Key figures by country 115
Number of co-operative members 116
Number of co-operative employees 117
The key figures by sector 118
The representativeness of COOPERATIVES EUROPE 120
Capacities of the co-operative organizations 122
Co-operatives within the social dialogue 123
Perception of the social dialogue 123
Participation in the Social Dialogue 125
Level of co-operative participation 126
Frequency of participation 127
Mandate for negotiation 128
Co-operative implication within the social dialogue 129
Co-operative organizations and their expectation for a European social dialogue 130


COOPERATIVES EUROPE was created in Manchester, 11 November 2006. It is the Europe Region
of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) with as its mission:
 To unite, represent, promote and defend co-operatives in Europe;
 To support & grow the co-operative model of enterprise and co-operative organizations
across Europe;
 To provide consultation, research, development, members’ services and share experience
and best practice.

Through direct membership or through its 6 European sector member organizations, 171
national co-operative organizations in the European region [141 from EU (27)] joined forces
for COOPERATIVES EUROPE to act as their European cross-sector co-operative representative

This represents a force for social and economic change of 163 million members [107 million in
EU (27)] owning more than 200,000 co-operative enterprises [147,000 in EU (27)], and
employing 5.5 million people [4.4 million in EU (27)].

These organizations are present in all main economic activities, but especially in the business
sectors of: agriculture, banking, social housing, industry & services, social pharmacies and
consumer & retail.

A main strategic objective of COOPERATIVES EUROPE for 2007 – 2010 is to promote and
strengthen co-operative representation and institutional recognition. Being recognized as a
European social partner and to enter the European social dialogue is therefore a priority action
in the COOPERATIVES EUROPE 2007 work program.

With the financial support of the European Commission, DG Employment and Social Affairs
under the budget line: “Industrial relations and social dialogue”, COOPERATIVES EUROPE has
started in the framework of its SPP project the process of evaluating its representativeness
and the role of its member organizations in the social dialogue in the different EU countries.


1.1 Why a specific role in the European Social Dialogue for co-

The European Commission in its 2004 Communication “on the promotion of co-operative societies in
Europe” considers the increasingly important and positive role of co-operatives as vehicles for the
implementation of many Community objectives in fields like employment policy, social integration,
regional and rural development, agriculture, etc. The Commission believes that this trend should be
maintained and that the presence of co-operatives in various Community programmes and policies
should be further exploited and promoted.

For the Commission, the multiple benefits of co-operatives to the European economy make them an
integral part in achieving the Lisbon objectives; during the meeting in March 2000, EU heads of state
and government agreed on an ambitious goal: making the EU "the most competitive and dynamic
knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and
better jobs and greater social cohesion".

In fact co-operatives are an excellent example of a company type which can simultaneously address
entrepreneurial and social objectives in a mutually reinforcing way. In addition to the
entrepreneurship policy, co-operatives play an important role in the agricultural economy for the
development of regions with economic difficulties; while their structure is ideal to enhance
employment and social cohesion.

Further, co-operatives are by definition autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet
their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and
democratically-controlled enterprises. The Co-operative organizations believe that their values and
principles such as the voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member
Economic participation, autonomy and self help, inter-cooperation and solidarity and concern for the
community, make them a different kind of enterprises with specific economic and social objectives.

Promoting a wider dissemination of the role and potential of co-operatives is therefore not only
important in respect to their immediate benefits for the co-operatives themselves but also because it
links with important EU policies and objectives. By providing entrepreneurial solutions to meeting
unsatisfied economic and social needs, particularly where public or private for profit initiatives are
lacking, co-operatives can create jobs and encourage sustainable and solidarity-based growth without
seeking for net profit to be distributed to the members. Many public authorities have identified the co-
operative form as an effective way of promoting balanced and solidarity-based growth.

The Commission recognizes therefore that there is a clear need for efforts at the Community level to
make sure that the role of co-operatives is fully taken into account in all relevant EU policies.

Commissioner Vladimir Spidla, responsible for employment policy and social affairs and therefore co-
ordinating the European Social Dialogue, underlined in his presentation in 2007 at the third European
Co-operative Convention held in Prague, the importance of taking better account of co-operatives in
the European Social Dialogue.

Even, if as enterprises they share similar problems with the other Employer organizations, considering
their co-operative difference and also their vision of a sustainable, socially cohesive, inclusive and a
socially responsible Europe they can not, and are not accurately represented by the other European
Employer organizations such as ‘Business Europe’ or the CEEP (public sector employers). Also, it can be
assumed that the European Social Dialogue would be enhanced with real added value by taking into
account innovative co-operative values and practices.

The SPP project is therefore an important opportunity to start the process of a better integration of
Co-operatives in the European Social Dialogue and in all consultations open to the European Social

1.2 Co-operatives added value to some European key issues

COOPERATIVES EUROPE considers that it can make an important impact on and a measurable
contribution to the EU Lisbon Objectives mentioned above because co-operative enterprises can
contribute to a dynamic European economy by addressing simultaneously entrepreneurial and social
objectives in a mutually reinforcing way.

The co-operative enterprises’ activities are specific in some issues, which could lead to joint initiatives
with other social partners and enrich the actual social dialogue. Some key working issues of
COOPERATIVES EUROPE indicate clear parallels to those of the other main social partners.

 Co-operatives and labour law - Flexicurity

Co-operatives have demonstrated their capacity to combine labour security and entrepreneurial
flexibility; they are enterprises which do not delocalise and which are at the same time based on the
active participation of their members. It is through flexibility that co-operatives build security, as was
also explained by COOPERATIVES EUROPE in its response to the European Commission’s consultation on
labour law. It can be considered therefore that in the debate on the future of labour law in the
European Union, the experience of co-operatives can provide a real added value: these enterprises
combine security and flexibility and contribute to local development in the era of internationalisation.

 Co-operatives and Services of General Interest (SGI)

Co-operatives, being member-based enterprises and having among their principles the concern for the
community and the openness to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the
responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination, are
by definition linked to the concept of general interest. Therefore, European co-operatives can give by
their very nature a real contribution to the concept of general interest, which is fundamental for the
proper implementation of the Lisbon objectives, and in particular for an accurate balance between the
internal market and the European social model.

 Co-operatives and CSR
COOPERATIVES EUROPE fully supports any initiative that promotes Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at
national and at European level. COOPERATIVES EUROPE actively participated in the latest Multi-
stakeholders Forums on CSR organised by the Commission and had underlined on different occasions
the necessity for Europe to become a Case of Excellence for CSR. Many national co-operative member
organizations have already made different achievements on this issue, and have emphasized the
strength of co-operatives in the Corporate Social Responsibility, which is mainly due to their specific
characteristics of a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.

 Co-operative Legal and Fiscal Framework

The specificity of the Co-operative Legal and Fiscal Framework is a clear contribution to the diversity
of the European economy and the plurality of enterprise forms for running a business. This form of
co-operative enterprise is also recognized by the EU through the Treaty, the SCE and the 2004
Commission’s Communication on Co-operatives.

1.3 The European Social Dialogue

 What is it about?
Social Dialogue is a unique and indispensable component of the European social model; it is about
negotiations, joint initiatives, consultations and discussions between the social partner organizations,
representing the two sides of industry (management and labour).1

The first stage at EU level began in 1985 (Val Duchesse) when Jacques Delors took the initiative for
such a dialogue. After Maastricht it has a clearly defined legal basis in the EU Treaty stipulating that
the Social Partners must be consulted on social questions and may negotiate framework agreements
between themselves.

At the European level, Social Dialogue takes two main forms. The first is a bipartite dialogue between
the European employers and trade union organizations. The second is a tripartite dialogue involving
interaction between the social partners and public authorities of which a major event is the Tripartite
Social Summit on growth and employment taking place before the EU spring summits.

There is also a distinction to be made between the inter-sectoral social dialogue and the sectoral
social dialogue. The inter-sectoral dialogue was the first, while the sectoral social dialogue was only
developed in the late 90’s.

 Who are the recognized Social Partners?

The EU Commission has established a list of European Social Partner organizations to be consulted
under the Treaty.2

Firstly, there are three general inter-sectoral organizations of particular importance: BUSINESS EUROPE
(formerly UNICE, private sector employers), the CEEP (public sector employers) and the ETUC (Trade

Secondly, there are three inter-sectoral organizations, representing certain categories of workers or
undertakings, and taking part in the cross-sectoral dialogue through agreements with the general
inter-sectoral organizations. These are the UEAPME (small enterprises, partner of Business Europe),
Eurocadres and the CEC (both representing managerial staff, in agreement with the ETUC).

cf: List of the social-partner organizations consulted under Article 138 of the EC Treaty.
cf: List of the social-partner organizations consulted under Article 138 of the EC Treaty.

Thirdly, there are the sectoral organizations representing employers and workers. Around 50
European employers’ organizations are listed. Among these are three representing co-operative
enterprises: ACME (insurance), COGECA (agriculture) and EACB (banks), which take part in their relevant
sectoral social dialogues.

And finally, there is one specific organization listed, EUROCHAMBRES, which is cross-sectoral according to
its character. However, it can be questioned whether their member organizations conclude collective

 Why is the Social Dialogue important?

The Social Dialogue implies that the Social Partners must be involved in all new social policy initiatives
taken by the Commission. In some cases the Social Partners are consulted well ahead of other EU
institutions. The partners can take their own initiatives which may result in joint texts or even in the
conclusion of agreements at European level.

To date, five important inter-sectoral agreements have been concluded by the Social Partners in
setting minimum standards at EU level for: parental leave, part-time work, fixed term work, tele-
networking and work-related stress. European minimum standard agreements have also been
concluded at the sectoral level in the maritime transport, civil aviation and railways sectors.

 How to enter the European Social Dialogue?

The question of representativeness is fundamental. Representativeness constitutes the basis for
consultation by the Commission and gives legitimacy to bipartite contractual commitments by the
Social Partners.

The Commission defined in its 1993 communication the three following access criteria:3

be cross-industry, or relate to specific sectors or categories and be organised at European level;

consist of organizations which are themselves an integral and recognized part of Member States' social
partner structures and with the capacity to negotiate agreements, and which are representative of all
Member States, as far as possible; have the adequate structures to ensure the effective participation
in the consultation process.

The Commission wants the Social Partners to develop the Social Dialogue so as to contribute to the
Lisbon Strategy and to improve the follow up provisions in the joint texts. It also wants to promote
Corporate Social Responsibility and connected activities at the European company level. The links to
the programmes of the European Social Fund at the national level are also stressed.

In the Work Programme of the European Social Partners 2006 – 2008, BUSINESS EUROPE, ETUC and CEEP
have reaffirmed their support to the Lisbon Strategy in order to attain the most competitive
knowledge-based economy, a sustainable economic growth, high quality level of employment and
increased social cohesion.

Cf.: http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/social_dialogue/represent_en

1.4 What place and role for co-operatives in the European Social

Currently, three co-operative organizations are recognized in the sectoral social dialogue, but there is
no recognition at the inter-sectoral level. This is partly because COOPERATIVES EUROPE, as a common
European inter-sectoral organization, was only created in Manchester, November 2006.

Concerning the contribution to the Lisbon Objectives, the co-operative specificity and difference could
give added value to the European Social Dialogue e.g. for the employment guidelines concerning local
development and social economy or for the restructuring concerning disabled people (social co-
operatives) and industrial relations (multi-stakeholder participation). Often, Co-operatives were also
the first employer organizations to start a Social Dialogue in the new EU countries (Czech Republic,
Slovakia…). There are also themes where a dialogue with Co-operatives could enrich the existing
dialogue, like on the participation and industrial democracy or the Corporate Social Responsibility

The possible recognition of COOPERATIVES EUROPE as a new European Social Partner at an inter-sectoral
level should in any case be complementary to the sectoral dialogue, where co-operatives already are
or are in the process of being recognized.

COOPERATIVES EUROPE should be recognized as the European Representative Organization for all Co-
operatives for all consultations within the social dialogue, but it should only represent Co-operatives.
Currently it cannot represent the European Social Economy even if in the long term, Co-operatives,
Mutual Societies and Economic non-profit associations become a specific European Employer platform.
The CEP-CMAF is therefore supporting the SPP project.


2.1 The Context

The “COOPERATIVES EUROPE: Social Partner Program” is part of European Commission DG Employment
and Social Affairs support program to develop actions in the frame work of the European Social
Dialogue. In particular this project corresponds to actions helping to prepare organizations to enter
the European Social Dialogue through studies, surveys, seminars and conferences. It was accepted for
co-financing by the Commission in November 2006.

2.2 Objectives

A main strategic aim of COOPERATIVES EUROPE is to be recognized by the European Union as the cross
sector European business representative organization for co-operatives, to become a European Social
Partner and to study the possibilities to develop its participation in the European inter-sectoral Social

Referring to the conditions to be recognized as a European Social Partner, a decisive issue for the Co-
operative Movement is to know what all the different member organizations of COOPERATIVES EUROPE
represent at the European level. The first objective of the Social Partner Program is therefore to study
the representativeness of the member organizations on a European level and to get a better
knowledge about their structure and their ability to organise consultation with their member

The second objective is to get a better understanding about the role of co-operatives in the Social
Dialogue; looking at both national co-operative organizations and the European Co-operative sector
organizations, members of COOPERATIVES EUROPE.

2.3 Implementation of the SPP Program

The SPP program is managed by COOPERATIVES EUROPE, with 12 national partners and 3 European
Sector partners, the CIRIEC (International research network) as scientific partner, and is supported by
the ETUC and the CEP-CMAF (European Permanent Conference of Co-operatives, Mutual societies,
Associations and Foundations).

To establish an image of the co-operative representativeness in the EU, a far-reaching survey at

national and sectoral level has been carried out. The data gathering was performed by the use of
questionnaires distributed with the help of the project partners throughout the European Union to
COOPERATIVES EUROPE member organizations. As the project started in 2006, only the former 25
member states were eligible for the project; the inquiry has been enlarged for some aspects to
Bulgaria and Romania, but hasn’t taken such an in depth form as for the other countries.

These questionnaires were elaborated by CIRIEC and COOPERATIVES EUROPE. First versions were tested
in two countries (Czech Republic and Sweden), and in one co-operative sector (consumer & retail co-
operatives). The final versions, including the comments from the test cases, were circulated to all the
organizations in three languages (English, German and French) in April 2007.

The surveys were carried out during 2 months, April and May 2007. For the countries or sectors which
were not covered by one of the 15 partners, the surveys were carried out by a member organization
of COOPERATIVES EUROPE or by the CIRIEC and its scientific network specialised in matters of social

The first results of the COOPERATIVES EUROPE Social Partner Programme were presented at the 3rd
European Co-operative Convention: “COOPERATIVES EUROPE: a future European Social Partner?” in
Prague (CZ), the 18th/19th June 2007. This Convention brought together 250 participants from
European Co-operative organizations, trade union representatives, as well as representatives of CEEP,
CIRIEC and the European Institutions.

The EU Commissioner Vladimir Spidla who assisted the conference re-affirmed his support for the co-
operative model of enterprise as part of the Single Market and the wider European social reality.
He told the COOPERATIVES EUROPE Board of Directors that he “... was convinced about the co-operative
specificities and would fight to maintain that ideal.” and he would “... need their opinions for the
continuing harmonisation of the Single Market procedures and was ready to enter into dialogue with

The positive role of co-operative values and principles in the Czech national Social Dialogue was
underlined by the President of the Czech Parliament, Miloslav Vlcek and the Minister of Employment
and Social Affairs, Petr Necas and Agriculture Minister, Petr Gandalovic within their speeches on the
theme of the European Social Dialogue.

The last Steering Committee and the final debriefing seminar [20th/21st November 2007] was
organised together with the ETUC, the CEP-CMAF, CEEP, CIRIEC, EESC, Member of the European
Parliament and the European Commission to discuss perspectives and future actions for an increased
role of COOPERATIVES EUROPE in the European Social Dialogue.

2.4 Structure of the European co-operatives

Taking into account the structure of the European co-operatives, two types of survey were carried
out: one covering the situation of the national co-operative organizations and the other covering the 6
European co-operative sectors.

 National level
The European Co-operatives are also organised at the national level. 63 individual national
organizations are direct members of COOPERATIVES EUROPE. There is at least 1 co-operative organization
in each EU member state; the average is 2 or 3 co-operative organizations per EU country. 30 of
these individual national organizations also belong to the European Sector organizations, while 33 are
exclusively COOPERATIVES EUROPE members. Therefore the total number of individual national co-
operative organizations, which are represented by COOPERATIVES EUROPE in the EU (27), is 141 (108
members of European sector organizations + 63 COOPERATIVES EUROPE members - 30 common

Many of these individual organizations are sectoral co-operative organizations. But there are also 19
intersectoral organizations, spread over 15 different EU countries out of the EU (27), which are

 European sectoral level

Historically, the co-operative organizations have been structured at the European level following their
professional activities. Today there are 7 sectors structured at European level. 6 of them are members

COGECA, which was the last to join COOPERATIVES EUROPE on the 15 June 2007, is the European
Agricultural Co-operatives sector organization. It is based since 1959 in Brussels and is a key player in
the European Agriculture policy arena being recognized by the Commission as sectoral European
Social Partner. The organization stands for more than 600.000 employed persons in the EU.

EURO COOP, is the grouping in Europe of the Consumer Co-operatives, and was created in 1957. These
are important commercial chains like COOP in Italy, SOK in Finland, EROSKI in Spain, but they are also a
strong sector in some of the new member countries like Slovakia. It represents national organizations
of consumer co-operatives in 16 European countries the members of which amount to more than 22
million consumers.

EACB, the European Association of Co-operative Banks, founded in 1970, is a recognized partner in the
banking sector social dialogue. It is a very powerful co-operative sector, covering between 25 and 30
% of the European banking activity market share.

COOPERATIVES EUROPE – Housing, the co-operative part of CECODHAS, is an important service provider for
tenants and is contributing in many European countries to help citizens to access affordable housing
through co-operatives. CECODHAS, was established in 1988 and is based in Brussels since 2000.

CECOP, the European Confederation of Worker Co-operatives, Social Co-operatives and Participative
Enterprises, is active in the field of SME’s in the industry, construction and service sector, and
represents 65.000 enterprises. Based on it’s specificity as worker owned businesses it has started a
dialogue with the ETUC.

UEPS, the European Union of Social Pharmacies, is contributing to regulate pharmaceutical services
and health service budgets.

ACME, the European Association of Co-operative and Mutual insurers, the seventh sector, has not
joined COOPERATIVES EUROPE as it is also in a process of merger and as it represents mainly mutual

insurers. How to link the two organizations together will be on the political agenda of the 2
organizations from 2008. Acme is part of the European sector social dialogue.

These 6 member sectors represent 109 individual national sector organizations in the EU (27).

2.5 Structure of the enquiries

Taking into account this dual structure of the co-operative system in Europe, and according to the
project’s objectives, each questionnaire was divided into two main parts: firstly, an assessment of the
economic importance of co-operatives and their representativeness and secondly, an evaluation of the
place of co-operatives in the social dialogue, its importance and its organization. The questionnaire
tried also to identify co-operatives specificities and legal recognition in the EU (27) to distinguish them
from other business forms.

 Co-operatives’ Representativeness
The first parts of the questionnaires4 focus on the quantitative assessment of co-operatives mainly
through the collection of data in order to obtain key figures on co-operatives (number of co-operative
enterprises, members and employees). As co-operatives are not easily traceable in the National
Statistic systems, (DG Enterprise is working with COOPERATIVES EUROPE on the development of co-
operative satellite accounts by Eurostat and the National Statistic Institutes) to gather accurate figures
concerning macro-economic indicators (market share, turnover etc.) is difficult. Nonetheless, these
indicators become more and more important for the European co-operative organizations to
demonstrate their economic and social impact on the EU economy and society.

The questionnaires targeted the following figures:

- number of co-operatives
- number of employees
- employment share of co-operatives by sector
- number of members
- turnover
- market share by sector

This data is often not easily available. Sometimes the partner indicated several sources linked to
different collecting methodologies or presented a problem or an implicit rule of confidentiality that
limited the possibility of compiling accurate figures.

Even though COOPERATIVES EUROPE has member organizations in all the 27 EU member states, there
are inter-sectoral member organizations only in 15 countries. This makes the collection of complete
information about all co-operatives of the country even more complicated. Normally it was this inter-
sectoral organization which was in charge of the questionnaire because they had the facilities to get
access to the required information. Otherwise an organization from a specific sector or a national
member of CIRIEC was asked to carry out the national survey.

The English version of the national and European sectoral questionnaires can be consulted in the Appendices.

In order to get the closest possible picture of the real co-operative situation in EU (27), the questions
on representativeness were structured in different parts. Firstly, the whole co-operative reality was
collected by the national questionnaires, as it was asked to estimate the global figures for every sector
in the country.

Secondly, the questionnaire collected data about those co-operatives being part of a federative co-
operative organization. Taking into account the structure of the co-operative system in Europe, this
second level of analysis tried to collect data about the following situations:

- There exists an inter-sectoral co-operative organization in the country: what are the numbers
about the organizations members of this structure, and those which are not members of it?
- There doesn’t exist an inter-sectoral co-operative organization: what are the numbers of the
national sector organizations in this country?

For the two cases it was asked as to who were the members (direct or indirect) of COOPERATIVES

Concerning the sectoral questionnaires, the same figures were targeted; every European co-operative
sector organization was asked to fill out the figures concerning its different member organizations.
This information has then be cross-checked with the one provided at national level. While the 3rd and
especially 4th chapter will give detailed information about the number of co-operatives, their
employees and members, the economic indicator of turnover is only partially available.

 Co-operatives and the Social Dialogue

The second part of the national and sectoral questionnaires5 focused on the ‘place’ of co-operatives in
the Social Dialogue. The aim was to obtain a better knowledge about the situations in the different
countries and sectors. Therefore, the questions collected information about the following aspects:

- perceptions of the social dialogue;

- organization of the social dialogue in countries where co-operative organizations participate;
- the prospective approach and expectations of co-operative organizations towards a greater
involvement in the social dialogue.

In order not to exclude the specificities and diverse forms of the social dialogue in the different EU
countries, a broad definition of the Social Dialogue was chosen for the framework of these surveys.
Social Dialogue is defined as “including all kinds of negotiation, of consultation or simply an exchange
of information between trade unions and employer’ organization on issues of common interest and
being relative to economic and social policy”. Where it exists, it should also include tripartite dialogue,
which means between trade unions, employers’ organizations and the representatives of
governments. This definition is largely inspired by the one elaborated by the ILO (International Labour
Organization), based on a definition stressing the capacity of the social dialogue to regulate industrial
relations in the European Union.

The data for this part of the survey was more easily gathered since no statistical figures were
required. The chapter 3 gives a description of the Social Dialogue within the different countries and
within the different sectors, while the chapter 4 provides a more general overview on the place of the
European Co-operative Movement in the Social Dialogue.

See questionnaire in annexe 1


Within this chapter, we analyse the ‘place’ and the ‘participation’ of European co-operative
organizations within the Social Dialogue.

The first part will retrace the co-operative development within the different European Union member
states, describe the evolution of the social dialogue within these countries and analyse the main social
partners. Then, these ‘country sheets’ focus on the role that the co-operative organizations fulfil within
these specific national social dialogues; and finally, they give a description of their implication,
participation and contribution within these negotiations.6

The second part of this chapter focuses on the European co-operative sector organizations and their
contribution to the European sectoral social dialogue. All the 7 organizations – structured according to
their professional activities – will be described, while 6 out of them are member organizations of
Cooperatives Europe.7

As the project started in 2006, an in-depth analysis can only be undertaken for the former EU 25 member
states, as no survey took place in the non-eligible countries Bulgaria and Romania.
Cf. chapter 2.


Area 83.870 sq km
Population 8,3 million
Economic growth 2%
Unemployment rate 5,8 %
Language German
Capital Vienna
Currency Euro

The first Austrian co-operatives were established in the middle of the nineteenth century. The law on
co-operatives followed shortly, in 1873, after the first creations. The parliament at that time supported
the idea to address the “social question” by offering the poor the possibility of economic association
and thereby participate in a co-operative way in market competition8. But although this law conveyed
a strong message, the reality of its implementation was limited by a co-operative movement just
starting to develop.

The legal framework was developed, in particular with the 1903 law which states the necessity for an
expert audit of co-operatives. The auditing via an officially recognized auditing association was one of
the possibilities but not the only one indicated in the 1903 law. The compulsory membership of an
audit association was introduced gradually in later years. This first body of rules created the four
traditional groupings of Austrian co-operatives based on their membership of the associations auditing
them. According to these rules, co-operatives are required to be a member of an officially recognized
auditing association (Revisionverband). These organizations may not only function as an auditing
board but also can insure the representation of its members’ interests. The four co-operative auditing
associations are: Österreichischer Raiffeisenverband (agriculture and banking), Österreichischer
Genossenschaftsverband (industry, trade, services, banking “volksbanken”), Österreichischer Verband
gemeinnütziger Bauvereinigungen – Revisionverband (housing), Österreichischer Konsumverband
(consumers). The existing co-operatives’ associations had predecessors which were founded before
the 1903 law and/or before the establishment of officially recognized audit associations; these
organizations understood and defined themselves as representing common interests and interests of
the co-operatives’ movement.

Co-operatives have a specific statute as well as specific representatives. There are particular acts and
representative bodies for co-operatives, stock companies, limited companies etc. There are subsidies

J.L.M. Monzon Campos, R. Spear, A. Thomas, A. Zevi, “Co-operative Markets – Co-operative Principles”, Ciriec, 1996, p. 32

for co-operatives available but they are not co-operative specific, but they are specific for a defined
sector (e.g. agriculture and housing).

As the co-operative movement in Austria grew mainly from the credit co-operatives among farmers
and other agricultural co-operatives, they played an active role in the banking, agricultural and
property development sectors. The co-operative sectors of agriculture and banking are the leading
ones within the Austrian co-operative movement.

In the 1980s, with the crisis of the provision of welfare services, private organizations took charge of
social services previously carried out by the public sector. Consequently, many co-operatives emerged
among these social enterprises.

Social dialogue in Austria

The Austrian economy is characterised by an important service sector and a high proportion of
medium-sized companies. In comparison to the organization of social dialogue throughout the EU, the
case of Austria is truly specific. Unlike the majority of the other member states, Austria has managed
to elaborate an institutionalised co-operation between labour, business, and government which covers
all important aspects of economic and social policy.

Collective bargaining is conducted almost exclusively at a sectoral level. A tendency to negotiate

agreements for particular branches within a sector and to extend the coverage of collective bargaining
to new sectors has increased the number of agreements each year. In general, Austrian law does not
allow the conclusion of company agreements, because a company cannot take the role of a partner
for negotiations or the conclusion of a collective agreement but exceptions to this do exist.

Today, there is a very wide application of agreements resulting from collective bargaining since
statutory membership of employers in Chambers is required. Typical policy areas covered by the social
dialogue system are social policy, fiscal policy, monetary policy, investment policy, industrial policy,
social welfare, labour law, job creation and training, employment, and EU issues.

Main social partners

An Austrian specificity is the involvement of Chambers. The most important Chambers are the
Economic Chambers, the Chambers of Agriculture and the Chambers of Labour. These chambers have
a representative function, being responsible for the representation of the interests of their constituent
groups in all legal aspects.

The Economic Chambers are essential to the system of collective bargaining on the employer side.
The Chambers of Labour are important actors within the social partnership; their main task is to
represent employee interests towards the government, whereas the task of collective bargaining is a
matter for the trade unions.

The Austrian Federation of Trade Unions (ÖGB) is concerned with decision making at company- and
macro level, playing an important role in the political system. The most important aspect of its
representation is the concern with the increase of real wage levels as well as securing for the
workforce a share in the country’s wealth. It provides various services to its members including legal
and social protection.

On the employers’ side, almost all private companies are members of the Federal Economic Chamber
(WKÖ, Wirtschaftskammer Österreich). This is because the Economic Chambers are based on the
principle of statutory membership; therefore compulsory membership is required to all firms (apart
from government services, agriculture, and the liberal professions) in the WKÖ’s domain. This is
another specificity of the Austrian system, membership of employer organizations in other countries
are mostly voluntary and chambers of business act as pure trade associations.
Another important actor on the employer side is the Federation of Austrian Industry (Vereinigung
Österreichischer Industrieller – VÖI), which is closely involved in the policy making that characterises

the social partnership. Because the VÖI represents the interests of most big industrial companies, it
has an important influence in the industry related sector of the Federal Economic Chamber. However,
despite being entitled to conclude collective bargaining agreements, in practice it has never used this


Entering the social dialogue implies for Austrian co-operatives the membership of a national sectoral
or intersectoral co-operative organization. Participation of co-operatives in the Austrian social dialogue
occurs at both sectoral and intersectoral level, and can be direct as a co-operative organization for
some issues or indirect on others.
In the case of housing co-operatives, the participation is indirect, i.e. not as a co-operative
organization in itself but through the involvement of a sub-section of the “Österreichischer Verband
gemeinnütziger Bauvereinigungen”, which is authorised to do collective bargaining. The banking and
agricultural sector participates directly in the negotiations, through the Austrian Raiffeisen Association
as the collective contracting party.
Co-operatives which are involved in the social dialogue participate on a regular basis and therefore
have a close co-operation with all the actors. It appears that once co-operative organizations are
active in the social dialogue, the spectrum of their involvement is quite large. Collective bargaining
may imply agreements on wages scales, working time, working conditions, unemployment policies or
other joint actions. Depending on the sector involved, co-operative organizations can be vested with a
negotiating mandate to be exercised – again depending on the related activity and social issues at
stake – at both sectoral and intersectoral collective bargaining.


Area 30.528 sq km
Population 10,5 million
Economic growth 2%
Unemployment rate 8,4 %
Language Dutch (60%), French (39%), German (1%)
Capital Brussels
Currency Euro


At the end of the 19th century, the Belgian co-operative movement stemmed mainly from the
development of socialism. Although co-operatives enabled the working classes to operate through an
appropriate business form, the legislature was reluctant to define the specificities of the co-operative
organization (its principles and its social purpose) and inserted co-operatives into the law of
commercial companies in 1873.

The Belgian co-operative movement still bears to some extent its historical specificity, which was
based on its doctrine orientation: the Christian-democrat, the socialist and the agricultural
movements, each of them being active in several sectors. The socialist co-operatives are represented
by FEBECOOP which federates the Belgian co-operatives, the Christian co-operatives by the Arco
Group and the agricultural movement by Boerenbond. It has also been strongly influenced later on by
the structural evolution of Belgium and its increasing regionalisation. However, it can be noticed that
with the new affiliations within these organizations, their initial specificities have diminished.

In 1955, the National Co-operative Council was created in order to identify through a number of
criterions, co-operative societies bearing co-operative values. The NCC was established to enable the
recognition of co-operatives’ particularities and to preserve co-operative principles. It is a consultative
body of the Ministry of Economic Affairs which gives its assent, allowing those recognized
organizations (more than 600 co-operatives) to benefit from certain incentives (mostly financial and
fiscal) in order to compensate the effect of the requirements (e.g. limited return on dividends).

In the 1980s, co-operatives experienced an important growth because of the flexibility of the co-
operative statute in comparison with other types of limited companies; these new co-operatives didn’t
necessarily adhere to one of the three co-operative organizations. Three traditional sectors of activity
became dominant in Belgium: the financial, agricultural and pharmaceutical distribution. Although the
co-operative factor has disappeared from some banks’ structures, it has been replaced these last
years by co-operative holdings which have maintained Belgian involvement in the capital of important

financial groups. Further, agricultural co-operatives have developed new activities – similar to French
co-operatives – such as the common use of agricultural equipment among several farmers. And
finally, Belgium is the European state with the most pharmaceutical co-operatives; they amount for
11% of all pharmacies, and can be qualified as social pharmacies, delivering medicines at a lower cost
to the Belgian people.

The Belgian co-operatives are seen as well as a way to cover more social-oriented needs such as
home services and caring associations, which have experienced a consistent growth in recent years.
Professional integration co-operatives have met considerable success with the launch of “titre-
service”, creating many new jobs.

Social dialogue in Belgium

Labour law, social security matters, and the regulation of the collective bargaining system are the
responsibility of the federal state. Social partners themselves are able to conclude collective
agreements at three levels, which are highly structured: a central level covering the entire economy,
an intermediate level covering specific industrial sectors, and the company level negotiations at the
base level. This structure is hierarchic, as in principle a lower level can only agree improvements on
what has been negotiated at the level above. The social partners are also consulted on several issues
within policy making. Based on the parity principle, they are involved in a lot of steering committees
and boards of the welfare state and labour market. Still, this autonomy is closely supervised by the
government, which has occasionally taken part in the social dialogue.

At the central level the negotiations can result in two different types of agreements. On the one hand,
the negotiations, which take place within the National Labour Council (CNT/NAR) result in inter-
professional collective agreements, which are extended to all branches of the relevant activity and
throughout the country. On the other hand, negotiations also take place every two years outside the
official bipartite organization and they result in national cross-sector agreements, which cover all
companies in the private sector.

At sector level the collective agreements are concluded within the joint committees or the joint
subcommittees by all the organizations that are represented by them. The sector collective agreement
applies to all the employers and employees covered by the joint committees or subcommittees
concerned. Because negotiations on this level implement the framework of the national cross-sector
level, it is argued that the sector is the most important bargaining level.

At company level a collective agreement can be concluded by organizations representing employees

and employer organizations. The company collective agreement applies to all employers’ workers
bound by an agreement, irrespective of whether they are members of a signatory workers’
organization or not.

Further, there is a long-standing tradition of informal tripartite social dialogue in the industrial
relations system concerning important policy issues. However, since the 1980s it has become more
difficult to establish this kind of tripartite social dialogue, because the government often turned plans
on new social pacts into one-sided social reform programs.

Main social partners

Up to 85% of the workforce is a trade union member. However, because unemployment benefits are
very often paid out through the unions, many of the members are unemployed. There are two main
trade union confederations: the Christian ACV/CSC and the socialist ABVV/FGTB. Both are composed
of several unions at sectoral, industrial, and/or regional level. There also exists also a smaller, liberal
union confederation ACLVB/CGSLB. These three confederations have the status of representative
unions, which means that they can sign agreements and present candidates in works council

The employers’ organizational density rate is one of the highest rates in Europe. The main employer
association is VBO/FEB (Verbond van Belgische Ondernemingen/ Fédération des Entreprises de
Belgique); the VBO/FEB represents small, medium sized and large companies in a wide range of
sectors. The association works with three regional employer organizations to organise and promote a
consistent message from employers.

Two smaller associations which are gaining power in the social dialogue represent the SMEs, namely
UNIZO in the Flemish region and Brussels, and UCM in the Walloon region. Further, the CSPO/CENM is
an association of federations for the health care, social-cultural, and educational sector. These sectors
are typically not represented in the VBO/FEB. CSPO is currently an associated member of the National
Labour Council and an observer in the Central Economic Council.


Even though the co-operatives do not participate as such directly in the Social Dialogue, they have a
consultative role. In Belgium, the social and economic consultation is structured around two councils
which are the Central Economic Council and the National Worker Council. Co-operatives do not have a
direct representative in the National Worker Council; the FWA assists as an agricultural employer’s
trade union, but doesn’t have only co-operatives as members. If there is an issue concerning
specifically co-operatives, this council can consult directly the co-operative organizations as experts.
This was the case for example relating to the implementation of the SCE.

In the Central Economic Council, the co-operatives have representatives either on the trade unions’
side or the employers’ side; the intersectoral organization FEBECOOP is a member of the CEC,
assisting on the employees’ side, while the agricultural enterprises are represented within the
employers’ organizations. Further, it can also be noted that the co-operative pharmacy sector is being
consulted in the equivalent commissions of its sector.

At a regional level, co-operatives are also included in the consultative organs as it is the case for the
Walloon social economy council; this consultative tripartite organ (employers, trade unions, social
economy) expresses its opinion on the regional policies concerning the social economy.

Also at a regional level, the agricultural co-operatives are indirectly represented by the economic and
social councils (on the employers’ side). The co-operatives are represented in the economic
consultations, but not directly in the social dialogue itself.


Area 111.000 sq km
Population 7,7 million
Economic growth 6%
Unemployment rate 10,1 %
Language Bulgarian
Capital Sofia
Currency Lev


Bulgaria has a longstanding tradition of co-operatives which started in the 18th century with the
development of agricultural co-operatives. The national system – supporting the concept of co-
operative self-help organizations – allowed workers to work both in a factory and on a farm. Bulgaria,
like its neighbouring countries, experienced a strong cultural influence from Western Europe.
Raiffeisen was seen as the model for credit co-operatives; workers’ production co-operatives followed
the French movement and the consumer societies were inspired by what was happening in the United

Savings and loan co-operatives followed the agricultural co-operatives and became very efficient
economic units. The peoples’ banks for example, which became later the co-operative central bank,
formed a union which functioned as a pressure group and performed audits.

From 1944, with the rise of power of the Socialist regime, the industrial and banking sectors were
nationalised. This went along with a collectivisation of the private property and the means of
production. During this period, the number of agricultural production co-operatives and collective
farms grew considerably. Since then, all co-operatives were integrated in three broad sectors of
activity: consumer co-operatives, handicraft and workers’ co-operatives and agricultural production

In 1990, the government began an operation of reorganization and privatisation of the economy,
which impacted greatly the co-operative system. Co-operatives participated in implementing the
privatisation policy and market conditions. But this transformation of the social and political system

As the SPP project started in November 2006, only the former 25 EU member states participated in the project. The
information concerning Bulgaria and Romania is therefore not complete, as they joined the EU only in 2007. Nevertheless, we
tried to integrate them within this report as far as possible.

also implied open distrust towards co-operatives, which were still associated to socialism. The central
association of agrarian co-operatives initiated the “Agricultural and Industrial Bank” which was
founded in 1994 as a universal bank to help manage the financial difficulties of rural co-operatives.
Handicraft and trade co-operatives which almost disappeared during the second half of the last
century are now slowly reappearing. The consumer co-operatives, which had been the only officially
recognized state-independent type of co-operative under the Socialist regime, experienced this
transformation period as less painful, but competition has since then added to a significant reduction
in the number of members in this sector. Despite difficulties attached to this transition period, co-
operatives have managed to preserve their social functions and traditional activities.

Among the various sectors covered by co-operatives, Bulgaria has a large number of co-operatives
aimed at supporting disabled workers, amounting to some 15.000 people.

Social dialogue in Bulgaria

Tripartite bodies at national level were established in the 1990s with weak employers’ organizations.
The National Council of Industrial Managers in Bulgaria (NCIMB), representing state-owned
enterprises, was set up with trade union support, whereas other employers’ associations did not take
part in the tripartite consultation. This led to a predominance of the state and trade unions. In 1993,
the Bulgarian tripartite body was created; organizations that participate in the tripartite system are
usually consulted, but also take part in the decision-making. The government must discuss the issues
with them, but has no obligation to accept the partners’ opinions.

The issues discussed include the labour force (employment, unemployment and vocational training),
incomes, prices and living standards, collective labour disputes, social security and social support,
international labour legislation, occupational health and safety, privatisation and structural reforms,
specific problems facing public sector employees, working conditions and social security.

Collective agreements at bipartite inter-professional level usually set out the methods and procedures
to be followed at lower levels, but the most important remain tripartite consultation and enterprise
level bargaining. At enterprise level, collective agreements are concluded by the owners of companies
and by registered trade unions, whether they are recognized at national level or not.


Area 9.250 sq km
Population 0,9 million
Economic growth 3,8%
Unemployment rate 4,5%
Language Greek, Turkish,
Capital Nicosia
Currency Cyprus pound (Euro from
Jan 2008)


The co-operative movement in Cyprus appeared at the beginning of the 20th century, with the first co-
operatives being created in 1909. In 1936 emerged the Authority for the Supervision and
Development of Co-operative Societies which is responsible of the promotion, the development and
the supervision of the co-operative movement in Cyprus. The Authority fulfils its mission in accordance
with the provisions of the Co-operative Societies Law and the co-operative principles.

In 1937, the Co-operative Central Bank was established in order to assure self-financing of the co-
operative movement. This body, which acts as the banker for the whole cooperative movement, is
today the most important Cypriot co-operative activity.

Since 1999, the co-operative law has been reviewed several times to be harmonised with EU
Directives, to empower co-operatives with better tools and to protect the interest of their members.
The co-operative movement also provides open professional training sessions to co-operatives with
the objective of strengthening small and medium-sized companies.

The two main co-operative organizations are the intersectoral organizations “Pancyprian Co-operative
Confederation” – representing all co-operatives and the already above mentioned Co-operative Central
Bank, which represents several sectors, but especially all the credit co-operatives.

The Turkish occupation hit the co-operative movement quite strongly in the northern part of the
island, as almost all of the 200 cooperatives of this region were displaced and are inactive now.
Nevertheless, the co-operative movement is a very common phenomenon in Cyprus, and almost every
inhabitant is a member of at least one co-operative enterprise.

Information about Turkish Cypriot co-operatives was not made available for this report.

Social dialogue in Cyprus
The industrial relations system developed on the basis of the fundamental principles of voluntarism
and tripartite co-operation, since the early years of the countries’ independence (1960’s). The
formulation and implementation of almost all proposals and policies regarding industrial relations was,
and still remains, the result of social dialogue between the government, employer organizations, and
trade unions.

On the practical level, the co-operation between the three parties is achieved through technical
committees and other bodies of tripartite representation, but mainly through representation of the
stakeholders in the Labour Advisory Body. Currently more than 50 tripartite technical committees and
councils function in the context of initiatives and actions taken by the different ministries. Social
dialogue is regarded by the social partners as very positive.
Despite collective labour agreements not being legally binding, collective bargaining has traditionally
played a leading role in regulating minimum standards, whereas legislation has constituted a
secondary tool for their regulation. In short, the system of industrial relations in Cyprus operates
primarily on a voluntary basis.

Main social partners

The main national trade unions are the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO), the Cyprus Employees
Confederation (SEK), the Democratic Labour Federation of Cyprus (DEOK), and the Independent
Trade Unions (POAS). The dominating and single union of the banking sector is the Union of Cyprus
Banking employees (ETYK). In addition to these Unions of the private sector, the public sector
disposes of four additional unions; by far the biggest and strongest trade union in membership and
power in the public sector is the Pancyprian Union of Public Servants, representing civil servants.

The largest employer organizations are the Employers’ and Industrialists’ Federation (OEB), the
Cyprus Federation of the Associations of Building Contractors, the Cyprus Association of Bank
Employers, the Pancyprian Association of Hoteliers (PASYXE) and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce
and Industry (CCCI). The OEB is the dominant employers’ group, representing nearly all employer
organizations. It has to a large extent undertaken the role of coordinating body for employers and is
the key co-ordinating body. Both CCCI and OEB try to represent employers’ interests but in terms of
bargaining power, OEB is far more influential. Every enterprise can become a direct member of both
organizations or can be affiliated to them through membership in professional associations. Co-
operatives that are not members of the Cyprus Association of Bank Employers, the OEB or CCCI, have
the Authority for the Supervision and Development of Co-operative Societies and the Pancyprian Co-
operative Confederation as their representing bodies.


All Cypriot co-operative organizations – intersectoral or sectoral – participate in the social dialogue at
national sectoral level and this is done through a direct participation of those organizations. These
organizations also participate at national intersectoral level but mainly through the intervention of the
Authority for the Supervision and Development of Co-operative Societies.

The sectoral co-operative organizations perceive their participation to the social dialogue as
occasional, while the intersectoral organizations participate on a regular basis. In most cases, co-
operative intervention takes place through the actions of the Authority for the Supervision and
Development of Co-operative Societies’, the latter’s participation being highly regular; this tends to
demonstrate that co-operatives actively take part in the social dialogue. The negotiating themes cover
thereby all possible areas.

The Authority for the Supervision and Development of Co-operative Societies is the only organization
with a negotiating mandate at both sectoral and intersectoral national level. Other organizations’
representatives are not vested with any mandate. It can also be mentioned that a very well
established tripartite social dialogue takes place in Cyprus between co-operatives, trade unions and
the Authority for the Supervision and Development of Co-operative Societies.


Area 78.866 sq km
Population 10,3 million
Economic growth 6%
Unemployment rate 8%
Language Czech
Capital Prague
Currency Czech koruna


The first co-operatives appeared in the mid-19th century, in what was at that time part of the Austro-
Hungarian Empire. Under the later communist regime, co-operatives were seen as being able to take
an important role in the economy. After 1948, the new regime considered co-operatives to be a useful
mean to expand state control over traditional enterprises but credit co-operatives were abolished.
National federations were formed and co-operatives served the social and economic interests of the
state-planned economy.

With the Prague Spring, co-operatives were seen for a short period as an instrument to re-launch the
economy. But afterwards, the association made between co-operatives and communist state control
hindered their efficient development. Since 1990, the co-operative movement has gone through a
transformation process, trying to detach itself from its communist legacy and entering more and more
the free market. The main sectors in which co-operatives operated underwent a profound
restructuring process (consumers’, workers’, agricultural co-operatives), with the relative exception of
housing co-operatives; this sector benefited in recent years from a governmental program
encouraging the construction of rental housing and technical infrastructure for handicapped people,
whereby the housing co-operatives played a prominent role.

The Czech Republic has seen significant European retailers entering the domestic market, and
nowadays, almost all European transnational chains are present. Therefore, Czech consumer co-
operatives had to join forces; through the Union of Czech and Moravian Consumer Co-operatives, the
co-operatives tried to preserve their activity, while taking advantage from the past experience of
countries with a longstanding tradition of consumer co-operatives, such as Sweden, Italy and
Switzerland. A strategy of integration of trading activities has been established, according to which a
more powerful consumer co-operative takes over the retail trade units of another neighbouring
consumer co-operative.

Currently, the intersectoral Cooperative Association of the Czech Republic represents the main part of
the co-operative movement, including four sectoral co-operative associations, namely the Union of
Czech and Moravian Housing Co-operatives, the Union of Czech and Moravian Consumer Co-
operatives the Agricultural Association of the Czech Republic and the Union of Czech and Moravian
Production Co-operatives.

The Czech Republic government had recently established the Council for the co-operative movement
but the new government dissolved this Council in year 2006. This permanent advisory body saw its
work executed by three committees covering co-operative law, collaboration with the EU and
economic and co-operative organization. The second important act of the Czech government for co-
operatives is the adoption of the EC regulation on the statute of a European co-operative society in
August 2006.

Social dialogue in the Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, the tripartite consultation takes place on the Council of Economic and Social
Agreement (RHSD). It was founded in 1990 and is the meeting place for social partners and the state
to prevent conflicts in the framework of economic deregulation and legislative transformations. The
RHSD addresses the transition to market economy by preserving social peace as an essential element
of this transformation process. The Council is composed of governmental representatives, and
representatives of employers’ associations and trade unions.

The issues discussed within the RHSD are those affecting members: economic policy, labour relations,
employment legislation, collective bargaining, jobs, pension reform, social issues, minimum wages,
public services and public administration, work-related health and safety, human resources, and
integration in the European Union. The Council has enabled a smooth transition during the last years
to market economy without any major social crisis. More recently, the co-operation between
government and social partners has even brought important results in the field of employment
legislation: among them the preparation of amendments to the Labour code.

Concerning the bipartite Social dialogue, collective bargaining takes place at sectoral (higher-level),
regional and company level, but not at an intersectoral level. The aim of the collective bargaining is to
reach agreements at both corporate and high levels. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has the
ability to extend higher-level collective agreements to employers submitted to similar economic and
social conditions and operating in a comparable field of activity, even though this mechanism is not
automatically applicable to an entire sector.

No specific representativeness criteria are required for trade unions or employers’ organizations to
sign collective agreements in the case of the bipartite dialogue. Therefore a representative can
conclude an agreement on behalf of such an organization.

Main social partners

Since collective bargaining does not operate at intersectoral level, the activities of umbrella
organizations focus on the tripartite level and on what is done within the RHSD. These organizations
also co-ordinate and support social dialogue at higher-level and company level.

The main organizations on the trade unions side are the Association of Independent Trade Unions
(ASO), the Confederation of Art and Culture (KUK) and the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade
Unions (CMKOS), whereas the main employers’ organizations are the Confederation of Employer and
Entrepreneur Associations CR (KZPS) and the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic (SP


The DA ČR (Co-operative Association of the Czech Republic) takes part indirectly in the social dialogue
via the Confederation of Employers’ and Entrepreneurs’ Association (KZPS). As the only intersectoral
organization for Czech co-operatives, the organization participates regularly on social consultations on
various issues, but mainly on the negotiation of working time and working conditions and on other
joint actions with social partners. As already mentioned, it has also the ability to conclude collective
bargaining agreements.

The Czech sectoral co-operative organizations11 take part in the social dialogue mainly through the
intersectoral cooperative organization DA ČR, but also via the KZPS and the Consumer sector also by
the SOCR (Czech Confederation of Commerce and Tourism). Co-operative organizations have thus an
active role in the social dialogue but they do not participate directly as a co-operative organization.
The only condition to fulfil for a Co-operative enterprise to participate in the social dialogue is
therefore being a member of a national sectoral co-operative organization.

ZS ČR Agriculture, SČMVD Production, SČMBD Housing, SČMSD Consumer


Area 43.094 sq km
Population 5,4 million
Economic growth 2,7 %
Unemployment rate 4,7 %
Language Danish
Capital Copenhagen
Currency Danish Krone


The emergence of the Danish co-operative movement goes back to the 1850s with the first
agricultural, consumer, credit and production co-operatives being created.

The development of co-operatives was considerable in the various sectors but the rural agricultural
organizations and the worker and consumer systems witnessed the strongest growth. The primary co-
operatives’ affiliation to strong national organizations could also be observed at the beginning of the
last century. First, the Federation of Danish Co-operatives for farmer co-operative societies was
created, then the Co-operative Union of Denmark being the Apex for the workers’, consumers’ and
trade unions’ co-operatives and finally the Co-op Denmark founded by the co-operative retail

Co-operatives still play an important role in their respective sector. Agricultural co-operatives have
merged into large successful export enterprises. Danish Co-operative has become the largest
slaughterhouse in the EU and the second largest in the world. Consumer co-operatives have a market
share of around 35 per cent. The housing co-operatives supply over 18% of Danish housing units. The
co-operative housing societies have been of major importance for urban and regional development
through significant building projects and the supply of a wide range of facilities (nurseries, recreation,
youth clubs, etc). Further, important co-operatives can also be found in the insurance and the credit

Co-operatives have also an active role in Denmark’s wind energy production, wind being the fastest
growing alternative source of energy in the world. Local co-operatives own 80 percent of the installed
turbines producing this clean energy.

Contrary to other European member states, no specific legislation for co-operative enterprises exists.
However they have to register in order to benefit from a specific tax regime; the applicable legislation
for co-operatives to work properly is thus to follow the normal company legislation. Housing is the
only sector where a specific legislation exists.

Social dialogue in Denmark

The Danish model of social dialogue is a well-established pattern of co-operation favouring industrial
peace based on the 1899 "September compromise" between the Danish Confederation of Trade
Unions (LO – Landsorganizationen) and the Confederation of Danish Employers (DA – Dansk
Arbejdsgiverforening). This has served as the framework for agreement and interplay between the
social partners ever since. The model enhances economic growth as well as a constant rise in wages
and the improvement of working conditions supported by the State with generous unemployment
benefits and large resources to vocational training to upgrade the skills of workers.

As part of the labour market reform of the 1990s, the trade unions accepted a shift in emphasis from
securing an income for life to providing higher employment security which together with the active
and tailor-made "activation measures” set the conditions for the Danish “flexicurity” model.

Collective bargaining covers more than 80% of the labour force and it is characterised by multilevel
regulations. The dominant level of bargaining is the industry, but there is bargaining at national
intersectoral level as well as at company level.

At national intersectoral level, “basic agreements” are negotiated that build a framework for the
sectoral agreements by defining basic procedural rules, including the right to organise, a peace
obligation or the handling of unfair dismissals. Based on this framework, most of the collective
bargaining on pay, working time, and working conditions takes place at sectoral level. The sectoral
agreements are then used as a comprehensive framework that is implemented at company level.

There is an institutionalised participation of social partners in different government bodies through

which regular consultation takes part.

Main social partners

The largest trade union in Denmark is the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO). The second
biggest union is the Confederation of Salaried Employees and Civil Servants (FTF), which was founded
in 1952 by white collar unions.

In contrast to the high trade union affiliation rate, the employer organization’s density rate is below
the EU average. The main employer confederation is the Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening (DA), which
represents the private sector employers. This organization has traditionally been very powerful
because all sectoral collective agreements have to be approved by its managerial board. The DA also
decides whether its member associations can take industrial actions regarding collective agreements
and organizes substantial funds to supplement member associations’ costs during work stoppages or


There are three employers’ organizations for co-operative enterprises: Kooperationen with members in
industry, housing, services, Brugsforeningernes Arbejdsgiverforening (BA) covering the small
consumer cooperatives and Sammanslutningen af Landbrugets Arbejdsgiverforeningen (SALA) with
members in the agricultural sector. The large consumer co-operative enterprise, FDB, is fulfilling an
employer’s role of its own.

Co-operatives as employers have the same standing and role as the private employers’ confederation.
When involved in the social dialogue, co-operative employers’ organizations participate in collective
bargaining regarding the following issues: the negotiation of wage scales, working hours and working
conditions. They also show also a high implication in the various consultation processes. All four of
them have concluded a “basic agreement” with the trade unions as framework for the collective
bargaining on wages and working conditions.

Kooperationen, FDB, BA and SALA participate mainly in national sectoral level negotiations. They may
all conclude collective bargaining agreements vested with negotiating mandates at sectoral level, and
if needed, at intersectoral level, which is very rare except for the case of SALA. In the tripartite
committees that are established as consultative bodies by the government, it is mainly the co-
operative employers’ organization SALA which takes part.

Finally Danish co-operatives have expressed their interest in taking part in the European social
dialogue when it comes to information and consultation. However for internal reasons the SALA
recently withdrew from the European social dialogue in the agricultural sector.


Area 45.200 sq km
Population 1,3 million
Economic growth 10 %
Unemployment rate 7,9 %
Language Estonian
Capital Tallinn
Currency Estonian Kroon


The co-operative movement experienced a rapid growth from 1898 onwards, especially in the
agricultural and the credit sectors. The movement continued to develop and in 1917 legislation on co-
operatives was adopted. In 1920, the Estonian co-operative people’s bank was founded, serving as a
Central Bank and counting also among its members the Central Bank for Agriculture.

From 1940 to 1991, Estonia became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and co-operative
organizations were closed down, except for the consumer co-operative structure which had a
centralised body directly subordinated to Moscow. Estonia underwent an increased industrialisation
and collective farms provided products whose sales were organised by special state-run organizations.
Estonia re-gained its independence in 1991 and the co-operative system has re-emerged and has had
to go through a period of privatisation. In 1992 the Estonian Law on Co-operatives was adopted,
replacing the former law and providing a definition and a series of rules.

With the renewal of co-operatives, a distinction appeared between three types of co-operatives: the
“new” co-operatives based on the new law, the “former” co-operatives (mainly consumer’s and
housing’s) and the collective farms.

The agricultural co-operatives in Estonia still play a significant role in the national primary sector of
economic activity, having a market share of 25%. Recently, the housing co-operatives also
experienced an important growth; this was mainly due to the Estonian government which introduced
a housing reform including the forming of co-operatives or associations as being compulsory, leading
to a current 60% of the population living in such accommodation. The consumer sector instead had to
face increasing competition in the area of retail trade and the number of consumer co-operatives
diminished slightly due to several mergers between them.

Social dialogue in Estonia
In Estonia 90% of economic entities are SMEs with less than 20 employees. Besides the predominant
service sector economic activity in the private industries, there are still some sectors in which state-
controlled industries are prevailing, such as the oil industry, the electricity, gas and water supply,
postage and mining. Because unionisation levels are low and the key level of collective bargaining is
the company, the structure and presence of workplace representation is important. According to the
Employees’ Representatives Act (1993) a company union also represents in most cases non-union

Efforts to reach more agreements at a higher level are apparent in some sectors. There are sectoral
agreements only in state controlled industries and in the transport and health care sector - the result
of several industrial actions in recent years. These agreements are then complemented and detailed
by further company contracts.

There is more specific industrial relations regulation at the national level for tripartite committees
which are the main place for mutual consultation. This has resulted in tripartite agreements which
concern matters such as the rate of tax-free income, unemployment compensation and social security.
The national minimum wage is agreed during this tripartite process every year, and the social partners
are then also involved in drawing up the National Employment Action Plan.

Main social partners

Trade unions are characterised by a Scandinavian organizational structure: blue and white collar
workers are organised in separate, occupation-based confederations. Initially, there was one major
confederation, the Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions (Eesti Ametiühingute Keskliit – EAKL); this
union is still the largest with about 47,500 members. The Employees Unions’ Confederation TALO is
the second largest and the Confederation of Food Producers and Rural Workers (ETMAKL) the third
largest; both separated from EAKL respectively in 1993 and in 1997.

The only employers’ association recognized for the purpose of tripartite consultation is the Estonian
Employers’ Confederation (Eesti Tööandjate Keskliit, ETTK). It is a non-profit, independent umbrella
organization, which is also an associate member of Business Europe. The other organizations
representing companies and employers are the Estonian Federation of Small Enterprises, the Estonian
Federation of Large Enterprises and the Estonian Chamber of Industry and Commerce; the first two
organizations are members of the ETTK and are represented through it at national level in tripartite


The majority of the co-operative organizations do not take part in the social dialogue, neither
indirectly nor directly, except for the EKYL. The EKYL represents part of the housing sector, and takes
occasionally part within the social dialogue on legislative matters. This organization is even vested
with a mandate.

The co-operative movement in Estonia being mainly organised around a strong agricultural and
housing sectors, consider a participation in the national sectoral level as especially important. A
second step would be participation at European level.


Area 338.145 sq km
Population 5,3 million
Economic growth 2,8 %
Unemployment rate 8,4 %
Language Finnish, Swedish
Capital Helsinki
Currency Euro


The co-operative movement emerged in 1870 with the creation of the first consumer co-operatives
while Finland was still a part of Russia. The agricultural co-operatives, being constituted soon
afterwards, contributed to achieving agricultural self-sufficiency and to develop the rural areas.
Unfortunately, tensions between urban and rural co-operatives led to a division of the movement
between “progressive” and “neutral” groups. Nevertheless, both activity sectors remain the most
important co-operative sectors in Finland in terms of employment.

Co-operatives belonging to the tertiary sector are very active in rural communities. Over the last few
decades, they have successfully developed operations in urban areas as well. These co-operatives
have always concentrated some work also on social and health issues of their members, even though
this isn’t their main activity. One major innovation in the post war period was the establishment of co-
operative educational institutions along with a Department of Co-operative Studies at the University of

In the 1990s the labour co-operatives also began to develop, these have to be distinguished from
traditional worker co-operatives in that they focus especially on work integration and services to
households, etc.

The landscape of the Finnish co-operative movement is still under a constant change. In the last
years, several co-operatives have been created in non-traditional sectors such as social services,
tourism and temporary work agencies. Many modern Finnish co-operatives have also recently
sustained a restructuring phase. Currently, the production and marketing of goods is mainly carried
out with the support of small subsidiaries; this subsidiary structure, dominant in the dairy sector, can
also be found in the co-operatives of the meat and forestry sectors.

With almost 60% of the population being members in one or several co-operatives, the Finnish co-
operative movement is one of the strongest in the world. The economic significance of the co-
operative system is larger in Finland than in any other country. Nine Finnish co-operative companies
are listed in the Global 300 list, combining a turnover representing more than 16% of the Finnish BNP.

Concerning co-operative legislation, the first law on co-operatives was passed in 1901. The current Act
defines broad rules and reflects the internationally recognized co-operative principles.

Social dialogue in Finland

The legal framework for collective bargaining is the Collective Agreements Act (Työehtosopimuslaki) of
1946, which is complemented by basic agreements between union confederations and employer
associations. Labour market relations are characterised by close cooperation between the state and
the social partners. Almost all legislation concerning working life is based on a tripartite consensus.

The collective bargaining system, which has a coverage rate of 90% during the last decade, is
characterized by multilevel bargaining. After the central organizations have concluded the framework
agreement, the trade union and employer confederations negotiate sectoral agreements based on it.
If the central organizations are unwilling or unable to reach an agreement, the trade union and
employer confederations negotiate separate collective agreements for each industry or sector.

Central trade unions and employer organizations have the right to independent negotiations on
income policy agreements. The state is not directly involved in the negotiations but the government
follows very closely the progress of the negotiations and often promises to adjust the tax scales or to
pass new labour legislation in order to assist the social partners to reach an agreement.

Main social partners

The three main trade union confederations are the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions
(SAK), the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees (STTK) and the Confederations of Unions for
Academic Professionals in Finland (AKAVA).
The main employers’ organization is the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK). It was created by
merging the Confederation of Finnish Industry and Employers (TT, formerly STK) and the Employers’
Federation of Service Industries (PT, formerly LTK). EK represents almost the entire private sector and
companies of all sizes, representing about 16,000 member companies, 96% of which are SMEs, and
about 950,000 employees. There also exists exist five other organizations, which are the Federation of
Agricultural Employers (MTL), the Federation of Finnish Enterprises (SY), the Commission for Local
Authority Employers (KT), the State Employer’s Office (VTML) and the Church Employers (KiT).


The co-operatives in Finland do not have any specific role within the social dialogue compared to
other company forms. In Finland employers and employees’ organizations are organized in their own
sectoral unions. These agree upon wages and other conditions in their specific sector. The co-
operatives, as all other companies, follow these agreements. There are never any exceptions
regarding co-operatives in these agreements and there is neither a specific indirect or direct
representation of them.


Area 547.030 sq km
Population 60,8 million
Economic growth 2,1 %
Unemployment rate 9,1 %
Language French
Capital Paris
Currency Euro


Since 1848, workers have joined and created workers’ associations on the principles of self-help and
solidarity, inspired by authors like Charles Fourier. Influenced also by a strong socialist tradition, these
organizations evolved to become co-operatives. After the Second World War, two co-operative
movements were clearly identifiable: agricultural co-operatives coming from the tradition of family
farms and which operated in the supply and distribution sectors and the consumer co-operatives. The
former ones were associated to the network of farming trade association, and therefore the farmers’
union; the latter, the Consumer co-operatives, decided in 1912 to unite in a national federation, the
Fédération Nationale des Coopératives de Consommation. At that time, co-operatives were also
already present in other sectors of activity such as savings and loans (Crédit Agricole Mutuel).

In 1947, France decided to constitute a body of law regrouping the various rules regarding co-
operatives. The law of 1947 defining the general statute of co-operative organizations has since been
revised, but from then it was only the start of an impressive growth up to the late 1960s. This change
did not affect the sectoral organization already in place but did much in adapting and altering business

French co-operatives have now evolved into a structure capable of facing the challenges of open
competition and the ever growing European dimension. Co-operatives have expanded the scope of
their traditional activities and are now involved in sectors such as new technologies (e-cooperatives),
or new forms as the co-operative of collective interest (société coopérative d’intérêt collectif - SCIC),
which allows employees, users, volunteers, state and co-operative financiers to work together in one
organization in order to produce specific services characterised by social purposes and a local aspect
(individual services at a local level). These new forms of co-operatives are clear indicators of the will
to adapt to the market without forgetting the co-operative grassroots principles.

Today’s co-operatives are for the most part represented by the National Association of Co-operative
Federations (Groupement National de la Coopération - GNC), which, among other missions, mainly
represents and defends the interests of co-operatives. French co-operatives have therefore a specific
representative body and some of the sectors are even submitted to specific taxation.

The French co-operative movement counts today more than 20.000 cooperative enterprises,
employing one million persons. In 2006, 58% of the newly hired employees in the banking sector
were employed in co-operative banks (around 16.000 jobs).

Social dialogue in France

In recent decades a decentralized bargaining system has developed in which companies enjoy greater
autonomy from both labour legislation and collective agreements. The so called Fillon-law of 2004
stimulates further decentralization of the collective bargaining system. This law encourages a move
towards company-level negotiations by approving derogation agreements and empowering company-
level agreements in the area of wages and reduced working time.

The industrial relations agenda shifted to a large extent from wages to employment and production
issues, reflecting more the agenda of employers than of employees and unions. The traditional form
of labour representation union is often outpaced by other actors (non-union worker representation or
protest groups).

However, the institutionalized system of paritarisme in social security agencies, industrial tribunals,
and social welfare boards is, although diminished, not abolished and is even strengthened in the field
of vocational training. Paritarisme is an organizational principle implying strictly joint decision-making
mechanisms in which the representatives of two groups with differing interests (employers and
employees) carry equal weight. This paritarisme – although criticised by French business – is
maintained as an important value of the state bureaucracy running social affairs.

In 2002, various organizations representing for the most part associations, mutual societies and co-
operatives, had submitted a common board to the elections of the industrial tribunal (élections
prud’homales) under the name “Employers of the social economy: associations, co-operatives, mutual
societies, foundations”12.

Negotiations can be carried out at all levels of economic activity, provided that some recognized actors
take part. The structure of the bargaining levels is pyramidal: the lower bargaining levels are the more
frequently used. The traditional level has since a long time been the branch for negotiating collective
agreements of general significance. Sector bargaining covers only SMEs, while many larger companies
have a company agreement. Regional-level bargaining is rare, but some sectors (especially
construction) engage in local and regional bargaining.

Collective bargaining coverage is also very high, one of the highest in the European Union. About 90%
of the employees are covered by a collective agreement, because agreements are easily extended to
entire sectors and to different geographical regions or other economic sectors. The request of one of
the bargaining partners is sufficient for the government to extend an agreement.

Main social partners

The unions are mostly organized on a sector or branch level and grouped in several confederations.
There are five main union confederations with membership across the entire economy (CGT, CFDT,
CGT-FO, CFTC, and CFE-CGC), all considered representative at national level. This status automatically
gives rights to negotiate, nominate candidates for elections, and have seats in some of the social
security bodies, which are directed by the social partners.

« Employeurs de l’économie sociale : associations, coopératives, mutuelles, fondations ». This initiative aims at a greater
involvement in labour law as well as in the social dialogue. In terms of co-operatives’ involvement, the CGSCOP (Confédération
générale des SCOP) is the only co-operative organization to take part in this.

In contrast with the employee’s side, employer organizational density is quite high. The MEDEF, the
main employer association, is a multi-layered confederation of sectoral and territorial organizations
bringing together companies with at least 10 employees. MEDEF directly organizes 87 federations that
cover some 600 associations, and 165 regional organizations. There is no direct company membership
at the confederation level. MEDEF was founded in 1998 and succeeds the former CNPF.

SMEs are represented by the CGPME, and self-employed artisans by the UPA. These two organizations
played a significant part in reducing working time in small and very small companies in 2002. In 2001
an employer organization, namely Usgeres (Union pour les employeurs de l’économie sociale), was
established in the not-for-profit sector.


French co-operative organizations, which participate in the social dialogue13, tend to participate on
both sectoral (10 organizations out of 11 which are participating) and intersectoral (7 out of 11)
levels. These organizations participate also directly in some consultations, which means specifically as
a co-operative organization, while other consultations are still done indirectly.

Consultations occur on the following issues: negotiation on wage scales, working hours and working
conditions. Joint actions among social partners are also undertaken, either with trade unions,
representatives of the government or other federal organizations.

The frequency of co-operatives’ participation depends on the sector in which they operate. The
sectors in which participation is highly regular are the consumer, the banking and the agricultural
ones, while a regular participation can be observed in the housing sector.

Most commonly, French co-operatives are vested with a negotiating mandate at national sectoral
level. Mandate for negotiations at intersectoral level can be found in the agricultural and workers’ co-

These organizations are the Fédération Nationale des Coopératives de Consommation (FNCC), Groupe des Banques
Populaires (BFBP), Crédit Coopératif, CMCM, FNSCHLM, Caisse Epargne, ANCC, Coop de France, Confédération Nationale du
Crédit Mutuel (CNCM), CGSCOP and Crédit Agricole.


Area 357.021 sq km
Population 82,4 million
Economic growth 1,2 %
Unemployment rate 8,6 %
Language German
Capital Berlin
Currency Euro


The year 1845 is considered as the beginning of the co-operative movement in Germany, with the first
German societies being established. The German co-operative identity has strongly been influenced by
two men, Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen and Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch. Raiffeisen initiated the
emergence of a rural credit and agricultural network based on strong local units, federated regionally
and united nationally into a central co-operative bank and a federation of agricultural co-operatives.
Since then, the German co-operative movement is often credited with the invention and foundation of
the credit and co-operative banking form. Schulze-Delitzsch on his side was active in urban areas,
developing credit structures for artisans and small entrepreneurs.

Up to World War I, a consumer movement and a national consumer union emerged. Housing and
agricultural co-operatives underwent a similar development. In this period, legislation – in addition to
the establishment of a specific statute for co-operatives – established the necessity to control the co-
operative sector via co-operative auditing. Consequently, numerous auditing unions were established.
This growth continued after World War I but with the rise of power of the Third Reich, these co-
operative auditing organizations were either shut down by force or were brought under state control.
None of these central organizations were functioning by 1945.

The reconstruction of the co-operatives followed quickly and co-operative enterprises returned into
their initial role in the German economy. Even with the division of Germany in 1949 into East Germany
and West Germany, co-operatives continued their expansion. In East Germany, the Soviet Zone,
consumer co-operatives became even the principal economic structure in this sector. With the re-
unification of Germany, co-operatives had to go through some readjustments again.

In more recent years, from 2004 to the end of 2006, a research field was led at the initiative of the
Federal government, to identify the unused potential of housing co-operatives. 21 demonstration
projects have been developed, tested in practice and assessed in order to – among other objectives –
demonstrate the co-operative potential in urban and neighbourhood development.

From a general perspective, the actual German co-operative landscape is composed of an area with
nation-wide umbrella organizations, thus having specific sectoral or intersectoral representative
bodies, and an area of more loosely associated co-operatives. Nowadays, the intersectoral
organization DGRV (Deutscher Genossenschafts- und Raiffeisenverband e.V.) stands for nearly half a
million employees and more than 17 million members.

A specificity of German co-operatives has been their ongoing support to the international development
of co-operatives. German political foundations have all included assistance to co-operatives in
developing countries as part of their programs.

Social dialogue in Germany

There is no institutionalized tripartite social dialogue in Germany, but there have been several more or
less successful voluntary approaches of cooperation between trade unions, employer organizations,
and the state. The dominant level of collective bargaining is the industry either on the national or, as
in metalworking, on the regional level.

The Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour recorded that there has been an increase in the
number of valid collective agreements registered within the last years, with over half of them being
association agreements between trade unions and employers associations, and the remainder being
company agreements negotiated between trade unions and individual employers. Nevertheless only
62% of West German and 43% of East German employees were covered by sectoral agreements in

A basic principle of industrial relations is the so called dual system of interest representation, the
division of labour between trade unions and works councils. It is intended to take conflicts out of the
workplace. The legal regulations governing collective bargaining are deliberately few; their main
objective is to strengthen the negotiating privileges of trade unions and employer associations and to
establish collective agreements as binding.

Main social partners

More than 85% of union members belong to one of the unions affiliated to the DGB (German Trade
Union Federation), by far the biggest confederation. The other 15% belong to a trade union of civil
servants and to a very small Christian trade union federation. The biggest trade unions within the DGB
are the metal workers union, the united services union and the chemical industry, energy, and mining

The structure of the employer associations mirrors to some extent that of the unions. In some
industries, such as metalworking, the employers have formed special organizations dedicated to
collective bargaining. In many other industries there are hybrid structures for both industrial
organization and collective bargaining.

The employer organizations are structured by industry and region, while the only employer
confederation is the Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände (BDA, Federation of
German Employers’ Associations); founded in 1950 and open to employers in all industries, it focuses
on collective bargaining, although it is not involved directly in collective bargaining but rather tries to
coordinate the bargaining strategies of its members. Economic, business, and political interests are
covered mainly by the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (BDI, Federation of German
Manufacturing) and various other service sector organizations.


The German social dialogue takes mainly place between the employers’ organizations and the trade
Unions; co-operative organizations participate within these negotiations as members of the employers’
organizations, which are partly representing specifically the co-operatives.

The specific co-operative representative organizations are from the banking sector, namely the AVR
(Arbeitgeberverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken e.V.) which represents the
interests of the co-operatives within the sectoral social dialogue at a national level, and the BVR
(Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken) participating within it at a
European level.

The AVR is participating at each occasion in the negotiations, and the themes covered are the
negotiation of wage scales, working hours, working conditions and dialogue around legal aspects and
training. The organization may also conclude collective bargaining agreements, being vested with a
negotiating mandate at sectoral level.

The BVR takes part regularly in the consultation processes at European level, but this level is
perceived as being very delicate. Collective agreements at national sector level are often difficult to
realise because attention has to be paid to the different specific national conditions, which is even
more complicated if the whole EU is being treated.


Area 131.940 sq km
Population 11,1 million
Economic growth 4%
Unemployment rate 10,4 %
Language Greek
Capital Athens
Currency Euro


The modern co-operative movement started in Greece at the beginning of the 20th century, followed
in 1914 by a co-operative legislation and a first federation in 1924.

During the interwar period (1915-1940), the contribution of the co-operatives to the important
extension of credits with low interest loans led to massive new memberships from small farmers.
Since then, the Greek co-operative movement remained mainly agricultural, with provision of
agricultural credit, but also provision of more and more diversified traditional Greek products, like
tobacco, olive-oil, currants and figs. This sector is represented by the national sectoral organization
“PASEGES”. The rest of the co-operative movement is made up of urban co-operatives: financial co-
operatives, professional and workers’ co-operatives.

Although the first urban credit co-operative was founded in 1900, the sector remained largely
stagnant until the 1990’s, mainly for reasons connected with the characteristics of the Greek banking
system and the interest rate subsidisation policies that were followed. The financial deregulation that
took place during the early 90’s in the EU and Greece, triggered the development of the credit co-
operative system which was practically established in 1993 with the distinction of two types of
institutions: the co-operative bank that functions as a bank and the credit co-operative which cannot
provide full banking services. In 2001, the co-operative banks created a central nation-wide bank –
having only a banking role – which supports since then the further development of the financial co-
operative sector.

The legislative framework for co-operatives has still not gone through harmonisation and some
features remain vested with problems. Three separate laws for the agricultural, urban and housing co-
operatives exist, and some additional legal provisions exist for some other types of co-operatives.
Other than a specific legal statute for co-operatives and specific representative bodies, some of them
are subjected to specific taxation rules, which are more favourable for example to agricultural co-
operatives and less favourable to bank co-operatives. Further, in 1999, a new law was passed from

parliament about “social co-operatives”, including under this heading only the co-operatives of
disabled people.

In a few cases co-operatives have developed business partnerships either domestically or even with
co-operative organizations of other countries. For example, consumer co-operatives in the past, made
joint purchases with a large number of unions of agricultural co-operatives operating supermarkets
and with quasi co-operatives of small supermarket owners. Special co-operatives for women emerged
also, particularly in rural tourism and within the broader process of promotion of the development of
the countryside. The co-operative accommodation facilities in rural areas and the establishment and
development of the women’s co-operatives for the better exploitation of local products, traditions and
cultural heritage has been very welcomed and serves nowadays as an example of sustainable tourism
to neighbouring countries.

Social dialogue in Greece

The influence of legislation inside the social dialogue is high. The public authorities, such as the
Ministry of Labour, can extend an agreement and apply its provisions to other sectors or regions on its
own initiative, if an agreement already covers more than 50% of the activity within a sector.

Today, the trend starts to be more towards a decentralization of collective bargaining. The 1990s
began with the introduction of an effective legal framework for bargaining (Law 1876/1990), which
has been in force without any changes or amendments since then. The new law removed state
interventionism from the domain of collective bargaining and established dialogue and consensus
between employer and employee organizations as the regulatory mean of collective bargaining and
settling of industrial disputes. The law is designed to support and encourage the parties (organized or
individual employers and the trade unions) to develop dialogue and procedural consensus or

The Mediation and Arbitration Service (OMED), established in 1992, operates as an independent, non-
profit organization to provide objective and reliable mediation and arbitration services, aimed at
achieving collective labour agreements (EIRO 1998). Another independent body that promotes social
dialogue is the Economic and Social Committee (OKE), which took as a model the Economic and Social
Committee of the EU. OKE is based on tripartite representation of interests: employers, employees,
and a third category (farmers, independent professions, local government, and consumers) whose
representation depends on the particular issue discussed.

Main social partners

The Greek trade unions are represented at the highest level by two confederations; the Greek General
Confederation of Labour (GSEE), founded in 1918 and involving all trade unions covering employees
working in the private sector and the Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY), founded in 1947,
which includes the trade unions of public administration, where labour relations of public law apply.

On the employers’ side there are three high-ranked confederations, which have a major role in the
national labour relations system. These organizations are The National Confederation of Greek
Commerce (ESEE), representing trading concerns, the General Confederation of Professional
Craftsmen and Small Manufacturers of Greece (GSEBEE), representing the interests of handicraft
professionals and small manufacturing companies and finally the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB),
which represents industry (mainly SMEs) and some larger companies; this latter organization plays a
major role in the negotiations pertaining to the General National Collective Labour Agreement and a
multitude of other sectoral and occupational collective agreements.

The law enacted in 1990 distinguishes national collective labour agreements into four main categories.
Firstly, the National General Collective Agreements (EGSSE), concerning the setting of minimum
wages and salaries for workers all over the country and is signed by GSEE on the one side and SEB,
GSEBEE, and ESEE on the other. Secondly, the sectoral or industry collective agreements, which are
signed by industry federations of employers and workers covering companies of similar or related

industries or sectors. And thirdly, the company collective agreements which concern the employees at
company level and lastly, the national work-related and the local/regional work-related collective
agreements which engage employees of specific professions at the national or local level.


In order to take part in the social dialogue, co-operatives must be member of a national sectoral co-
operative organization. The participation in the social dialogue of Greek co-operative organizations –
i.e. PASEGES for the agricultural sector, ESTE for the banking sector, SYNETERISTIKI representing the
insurance sector, OSFE for the pharmacies, POSEYD for the plumbers, POSHE for the electricians and
the Union of Women’s co-operatives in the rural tourism sector – is also only possible at national
sectoral level. Participation is mostly indirect, except for the agricultural sector where PASEGES
participates directly to consultations through the Greek Economic and Social Committee.

A similar pattern can be witnessed regarding the frequency at which Greek co-operative organizations
participate in the social dialogue where involvement in consultation is mainly achieved on an
occasional basis (once or twice a year), except for the agricultural sector where the participation is
regular. As mentioned above, the agricultural sector is one of the most important ones in terms of co-
operative enterprises and activity, so it is not surprising that this sector has the most frequent

Consultations in which co-operative organizations take part cover the negotiation of wage scales,
working time and working conditions, as well as unemployment policies and training programs. Joint
actions with social partners are also undertaken by co-operatives. Again it is the agricultural sector
organization PASEGES which is active in most issues. It is also the only Greek co-operative
organization with a negotiating mandate, which is exercised at national sectoral level. Moreover,
agricultural co-operatives take part in tripartite social dialogue on insurance matters for the personnel
of agricultural co-operatives.

Nevertheless, a strong need for grouping in a national intersectoral co-operative organization has
been expressed, in order to deal with issues of mutual interests of all co-operative sectors. The Greek
co-operative world welcomes such recent developments directed towards the formation of an inter-co-
operative representative organ.


Area 93.030 sq km
Population 10,1 million
Economic growth 4%
Unemployment rate 7,3 %
Language Hungarian
Capital Budapest
Currency Forint


The first Hungarian co-operative was established in 1850 as a credit association and the first
legislation was passed in 1875. During the 20th century co-operatives emerged and grew in the
sectors of agricultural and fishery enterprises, consumers and housing co-operatives and credit and
insurance societies.

After the Second World War, co-operatives became a tool to reinforce and expand state control under
the communist system. Co-operative growth continued until the collapse of that system in 1989-1990.
At that time, the situation in Hungary was very different from the one prevailing in the other
neighbouring countries of Central and Eastern Europe because of the legacy of more than two
decades of economic reform which preceded the political change. The Hungarian co-operative sector
was the main object of these reforms. As a result of the change of the political and economic system,
the agricultural co-operative sector underwent important transformations. Business management of
agricultural co-operatives evolved to adapt according to the new market conditions, to preserve their
assets and diversify their activity.

The Unified Co-operative Act and the Co-operative Transition Act were passed in 1992 and provided
the conversion basis of the co-operative network into a private system. The co-operative federations
were reconstituted and the transition completed. In comparison to other Eastern European countries,
Hungarian co-operatives had already increasingly established a growing independence and
diversification of activities under the communist system.

Consumer co-operatives have been in the process of diversifying their traditional activities on
providing food and basic necessities to rural inhabitants; while still essentially concentrated in rural
locations, consumer co-operatives now own commercial establishments offering a wide variety of
products and services. The industrial co-operatives underwent the biggest transformation, either into
joint stock companies or limited companies. In other sectors, co-operatives had to struggle more to
survive, as for example the school co-operative movement which has existed for more than a century.
Hungarian co-operatives may benefit from specific aids if they set up common funds for common
social or cultural purposes. The National Employment Foundation is launching a 5-year program for
setting up social co-operatives – participation in expertise, education and in concrete activities –
promoting the establishment of such co-operatives.

Social dialogue in Hungary

Collective agreements at sector level are particularly important for the public sector and major public
utility companies (such as public transport, energy and water utilities, and postal services) but less so
in the manufacturing and private service sectors where their role is limited to the establishment of
general minimum employment conditions. Multi-employer collective agreements in the private sector
are also less effective than sectoral agreements in the public sector because the unions are much
weaker and therefore not in a so favourable position to exert pressure. Private sector collective
agreements are mostly concluded at company level. It can be noted that recently, as a result of a EU
program, more than 30 sectoral bipartite social dialogue committees were set up to reinforce sectoral

More important are the annual recommendations of the tripartite National Interest Reconciliation
Council, which concern the themes on wage increases and the setting of minimum wages for the
current year. The tripartite structures were introduced in 1988 through the creation of this Council,
the first example of an institutionalized and tripartite round table in Central and Eastern Europe.
Hungary was also the first of the eight new CEE member states to introduce a dual system of
industrial relations at company level. The revised Labour Code 2002 fixed the 40-hour working week
as a legal standard with a flexible scope for company regulations. It commits employers to collective
bargaining with recognized representative unions at company and sectoral level.

Main social partners

The main trade union confederations which are acknowledged as representative organizations are the
following: the National Federation of Workers’ Councils (MOSZ), the Confederation of Trade Unions of
Professionals (ÉSZT), the public employees and civil servants, which are organized under the Trade
Union Cooperation Forum (SZEF), and the former official monopoly trade union, SZOT, which
restructured itself into the National Association of Hungarian Trade Unions (MSZOSZ).

The employer organizations are represented by nine main confederations, which are all members of
the National Tripartite Council. These organizations are the following: the Confederation of Hungarian
Employers and Industrialists (MGYOSZ), being the largest employer organization, the National
Association of Entrepreneurs and Employers (VOSZ), the Union of Agrarian Employers (AMSZ), the
National Federation of Agricultural Co-operators and Producers (MOSZ), the National Association of
Industrial Corporations (IPOSZ), the National Federation of Traders and Representation of Interest
Caterers (KISOSZ), the Hungarian Industrial Association (OKISZ), the National Federation of
Consumer Cooperative Societies and Trade Associations (ÁFEOSZ) and the National Association of
Strategic and Public Utility Companies (STRATOSZ).


As mentioned, the National Federation of Consumer Cooperative Societies and Trade Associations
(ÁFEOSZ) is a recognized partner in the social dialogue and also the main one concerning co-
operatives (as an employer organization). Therefore, through this organization, co-operatives are
directly involved – on a highly regular basis – in the social dialogue at both sectoral and intersectoral
level. The sectoral organization MOSZ (agriculture) is one of the main employers’ organizations taking
part in the social dialogue.

The only condition for a co-operative enterprise in Hungary to take part in the social dialogue, is to be
a member of a national sectoral or intersectoral co-operative organization. Through ÁFEOSZ,
negotiations take place on wage scales, working hours and unemployment policies; other joint actions
with social partners are also maintained. Additionally, the organization has the capacity to sign
collective-bargaining agreements.


Area 70.280 sq km
Population 4,2 million
Economic growth 5%
Unemployment rate 4,4 %
Language English, Irish (Gaelic)
Capital Dublin
Currency Euro


The first co-operative was a consumer co-operative established in Dublin in 1859. Other co-operative
organizations appeared in different parts of the country shortly afterwards. In 1888 the strong
development of the co-operative movement enabled co-operatives to be federated in the Irish Co-
operative Union. The Industrial and Provident Societies Law (1893) and the Friendly Societies Law
(1896) were adopted to provide a better organizational framework to the co-operative movement.

Until the Dominion Status was achieved in 1922, the development of the co-operative movement in
Ireland and in the United Kingdom was very similar. Agricultural co-operatives emerged as the most
important ones in terms of number of enterprises and membership; housing and industrial co-
operatives were also formed. It was with the introduction of the credit unions in 1958 and the
adoption of the Credit Union Law in 1966 that this new sector gained more and more importance in
Ireland and became the leading one.

In terms of representativeness, Irish co-operatives have specific representative bodies but, unlike in
most other EU countries, no specific legal statute exists. Only the Credit Union Movement in Ireland
has a specific legislation dedicated to the formation of member owned lending and saving businesses
which are wholly co-operative in character (The Credit Union Act 1997). The vast majority of co-
operatives in Ireland are incorporated under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1893-1978 and
the Credit Union Act 1997 with a small minority of co-operatives using company legislation for the
purposes of registration. Most other business forms seeking to be identified as co-operatives use
model rules provided by the various co-operative organising bodies. The vast majority of model rules
are designed to be used in conjunction with the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1893 – 1978
which, while not dedicated to co-operative legislation, is suited for the incorporation of co-operatives.
This legislation however also permits other businesses, associations and organizations that are not
necessarily co-operatives a means of incorporation. A small minority of co-operatives will also use
Irish Company Law for the purposes of incorporation (The Companies Act 1962-2006).

In recent years, increased international competitiveness has strongly affected agri-food co-operatives,
leading a number of the largest multi-purpose co-operatives to merge and to obtain equity from the
stock market by becoming publicly listed companies. While most have kept elements of their co-
operative structures and principles, the bigger organizations effectively operate as large trans-national
corporations. In the non agricultural sector, growth in the numbers of organizations registering as co-
operatives is quite modest.

Since 1998, Irish general medical practices have developed 11 out-of-hours co-operatives providing
consultations and covering almost 40% of the population.

Social dialogue in Ireland

The industrial relations system has historically been characterized by ‘voluntarism’, meaning that it
initially encountered little intervention by the law. But in the last 40 years it has evolved through legal
initiatives mainly concerning individual employment law. Historically, the state did not directly
intervene in the collective bargaining system. It provided a range of third-party institutions to assist in
the negotiations. The system of industrial relations is characterized by a very high use of both the
collective and individual dispute resolution bodies.

Collective agreements generally have no legal binding force; nevertheless they are closely observed
and state institutions are generally attentive to the terms of the agreements when conciliating or
adjudicating on disputes. Furthermore, terms and conditions of employment gain legal effect when
implemented by an employer because they are then incorporated into individual employment

Agreements can be registered within the Labour Court; they gain thereby legal effect, but the
collective agreements are largely restricted to special issues such as pensions. It is also possible to
have a registered agreement that covers an entire industry, including employers that are not members
of the relevant employer organization, but this is rarely used.

Main social partners

There is one main trade union confederation, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU); this union
covers both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. A small number of trade unions also operate
outside the ICTU.

Employers’ organizations which participate in collective bargaining must be vested – like trade unions
– with a negotiation license unless they are statutorily exempted from doing so. The Irish Business
Employers Confederation (IBEC) is the largest employer organization and is the umbrella body for
leading business groups and sectoral associations; it performs the dual functions of an employer
organization (handling industrial relations) and a trade association (promoting business generally).
Other significant employer organizations are the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), the Society of
the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) and the Irish Hotels Federation
(IHF). The Chambers of Commerce (CCI) do not play a role in the collective bargaining system, but
are involved in the system of social partnership.


Irish co-operative enterprises can participate in the social dialogue provided that they are members of
a national co-operative organization. The three main national organizations are the National
Association of Building Co-operatives (NABCo), which is the representative, promotion and
development federation serving the co-operative housing movement, the Irish Co-operative
Organization Society Limited (ICOS), which is the national organising body for the promotion and
development of agricultural, fishery and other rural related co-operatives and the Irish League of
Credit Unions (ILCU), being a Trade Association Business Support Service Provider and provider of
Monitoring Service, working with Irish credit unions.

The participation of co-operatives in the social dialogue is often through their national sectoral co-
operative organizations, who in turn are members – with other organizations – of one of the “national
pillars” recognized by the government. The “Farming Pillar”, along with Employers’-, Trade Unions-,
Community- and Voluntary Sectors is one of the recognized social partners for the purpose of dialogue
and social partnership agreements. The Irish Co-operative Organization Society Limited (ICOS) takes
part at both sectoral and intersectoral levels of these negotiations. Direct participation within the
debates is done within this “Farming Pillar”, which includes besides ICOS three other farm
organizations. The National Association of Building Co-operatives (NABCo) only takes part in social
consultations at sectoral level and direct participation is undertaken within the “Community and
Voluntary Pillar”, which includes also a wide range of community and voluntary bodies. These two
organizations are the most significant ones in terms of co-operative involvement in the Irish social

Both ICOS and NABCOs are involved on a regular basis in consultations related to unemployment
policies and other joint actions with social partners. Regarding these negotiations, ICOS, NABCo and
the Irish League of Credit Unions are vested with a mandate to be exercised at national sectoral level.

Further, Ireland has had a formal and structured approach to social partnership since 1987 when the
first partnership programme, the Programme for National Recovery was agreed. Social partnership in
Ireland describes an approach to government where interest groups outside of elected representatives
play an active role in decision taking and policy making. This form of participative democracy enables
the social partners to enter discussions with government on a range of social and economic issues and
to reach a consensus on policy. In this frame, co-operatives have taken part in consultations. The
most recent negotiations which started in February 2006 have resulted in the delivery of « Towards
2016 », a ten year Framework Social Partnership Agreement, 2006-2015.


Area 301.230 sq km
Population 59 million
Economic growth 1,3 %
Unemployment rate 7,7 %
Language Italian
Capital Rome
Currency Euro


The Italian co-operative movement started in the second half of the 19th century with the first
consumer co-operative shop (Magazzino di Previdenza) created in 1854 in Torino. In 1856, glass-
workers from Altare founded the first workers’ co-operative, while the first co-operative bank was
established in Lodi in 1864. Twenty years went by before the first rural co-operative bank had been
set up. Shortly after, the first farmer co-operative in Ravenna emerged.

The Italian co-operative movement has since its beginning not been dominated by any particular
model, but has shown an ability to take root in all sectors of the economy. At the end of the 19th
century, the Federation of Italian Co-operatives was founded. It changed its name in 1893 to the
National League of Co-operative Societies

Following the Encyclical letter of Pope Leone XIII Rerum Novarum at the end of the 19th century,
Catholicism opened up to the new socio-economic realities and Catholic-inspired co-operatives began
to emerge. Their first area of application was that of rural credit unions and because of their great
success, the ideas were enlarged to the dairy and wine-producing sectors and the creation of
consumer co-operatives.

The strength of the Italian national organizations is specific among the world-wide co-operative
movements; the two main organizations grew in parallel with the growth of co-operatives at the
beginning of the 20th century, responding to the need for a better co-ordination. They are historically
identified by their political and ideological affiliations: LEGACOOP (Lega Nazionale Cooperative e
Mutue) is socialist inspired confederation, and CONFCOOPERATIVE (Confederazione Cooperative
Italiane) emanates from the catholic inspiration. Both were closed under the fascist regime; but with
the fall of Fascism in 1943 the co-operatives began to gain back some of their autonomy which for
years they had seen so limited. In fact, the post-war period was marked by a flourishing of new co-
operative enterprises, and both organizations were re-established in 1945.

Two new small organizations were also created later, namely the AGCI (Associazione Nazionale
Cooperative Italiane) in 1952 and the UNCI (Unione Nazionale Cooperative Italiane) in 1975.

Each of the four associations is active in several sectors. Their organizational role is legally recognized
through the mandates bestowed upon them i.e. of representing, assisting, protecting and auditing
member cooperatives. Among their activity there is the promotion of efficient business management
but they do not only assist co-operatives but also take positive initiatives. Today, the organizations
represent about three quarters of the Italian co-operative reality. The Italian co-operative movement,
and especially the national organizations, have constantly been inspired and organised through a
series of laws and regulations in line with the traditional co-operative rules and principles recognized
by the ICA.

Another important feature of the Italian co-operative landscape is the social co-operatives which
experienced a constant growth in the 1980s. One reason for this was the fact that co-operatives had
traditionally responded to the crisis of the welfare state by supplying social services neglected by
public services. Social co-operatives have proven to remain competitive while supplying community
services and encouraging labour inclusion.

These social co-operatives can be divided into two main categories: those providing services on
contract by professional care-workers (type A co-operatives) and those offering welfare services and
employment opportunities to disadvantaged people and integrating people with physical or mental
disabilities (type B co-operatives).

A reform of company law, which includes co-operatives, was implemented in 2003 and drew up
common rules for all the co-operatives, especially for the co-operative governance, the refund system,
the relation between the co-operative and its members and the requirement of mutualistic prevalence.

Social dialogue in Italy

In 1947, following the adoption of the republican form of government, a new social dialogue was set
up. One of the most important events occurring within the social dialogue framework was the central
tripartite agreement signed in 1993. This defined a new institutional framework concerning income
policy, restructuring of bargaining procedures, modification of workplace union representation, policies
on employment and measures to support the production system. This agreement can be seen as the
basis for the collective bargaining structure.

In 2002, the government together with employers’ organizations and trade unions (except CGIL, the
largest trade union confederation) agreed on the so called Patto per l’Italia. The pact deals with
income policy, labour market reform, tax concessions, and investment and employment. The
agreement also included the government’s commitment to reform unemployment benefits and social
shock absorbers.

On 23 July 2007, the Italian Government and some of the most important employers’ organizations
and all the main trade unions signed another important pact concerning welfare policies and initiatives
to improve the competitiveness of the Italian economy.

Main social partners

The three major trade union confederations are the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro
(CGIL, General Italian Confederation of labour), the Confederazione Italiana Sindacati dei Lavoratori
(CISL, Italian Confederation of Workers’ Unions) and the Unione Italiana del Lavoro (UIL, Italian Union
of Labour). Trade union confederations are organized in all private and public sectors.

The Italian social dialogue is very articulated. In the employer sector there are historical
representative organizations of large, medium and small industries; of handicraft, agriculture and
trade. Since 1947, following the industrial development, Italian entrepreneurship is based on SMEs -


Italian co-operative enterprises have to acquire membership of a national co-operative organization in

order to take part in the social dialogue. Nevertheless, there are co-operative enterprises which do not
belong to any co-operative organization, as membership is not compulsory. Under an economic point
of view, this part is very residual.

Three Italian co-operative organizations (AGCI, Confcooperative and Legacoop) all participate in the
social dialogue at sectoral and intersectoral levels, and they take part directly in consultations.
Participation at the sectoral level is made through the organizations’ federations. Depending on the
issues on the agenda, their participation in the social dialogue is assessed as regular to highly regular.
The three co-operative organizations have always signed the social dialogue pacts agreed upon at
national level since 1993 to the recent one of July 2007. In this last pact there was a section devoted
to the co-operative movement and aimed at solving problems of unfair competition suffered in some
sectors of activity by many co-operative enterprises. Following this important event, on 10 October
2007, the Italian Government, the three main co-operative organizations and the three most
important trade unions signed an agreement which specifies the actions that need to be carried out in
order to implement the co-operative section of the July pact.

AGCI, Confcooperative and Legacoop cover a large scope of issues to be submitted to consultation:
negotiations of wage scales, working hours, working conditions and unemployment policies. They are
also involved in the elaboration of legislation. Joint actions with other social partners are also
considered in order to achieve social objectives. To accomplish their missions, negotiating mandates
are bestowed upon all three organizations, both at national intersectoral and sectoral levels.
Apex co-operative organizations regularly take part at the national level in all consultations on matters
dealing with enterprises. They are members of the different permanent commissions set up in the
framework of the tripartite social dialogue.

Social dialogue is also organized at regional level. Like the national social dialogue, regional co-
operative organizations (which are part of the territorial structure of the three apex organizations) are
regularly consulted on all issues affecting co-operatives. Within the regional social dialogue system
there are permanent tripartite commissions dealing with the various issues concerning enterprises.
Regional co-operative organizations are members of those commissions. Legislation is also amongst
the issues concerned by this social dialogue.

Based on the institutional model of the State (nation, regions and provinces) a social dialogue exists
at the provincial level.


Area 64.589 sq. km

Population 2,3 million
Economic growth 7,7 %
Unemployment rate 5.1%
Language Latvian
Capital Riga
Currency Lats


Co-operatives appeared in Latvia in the second half of the 19th century, by which time the Latvians
were ruled by Russia. The development of the co-operative movement was similar to what has been
experienced in other neighbouring countries. Before the start of World War I, half of the co-operative
enterprises were agricultural ones while the others were active in the consumer, mutual fire
insurance- and loan societies sectors.

Latvia suffered terrible losses during and after the period of the First World War. The co-operative
enterprises were the first ones able to re-establish themselves to their pre-war level, and in the
following 20 years they created a network of co-operative unions active in various sectors.

In 1940, Latvia was occupied by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Soviet system of co-
operatives was imposed upon the Latvian movement. The Germans took over the country in 1941 and
re-established the former system which was replaced again when Russia absorbed Latvia as a republic
in 1944. All co-operative societies were nationalised – meaning that they were taken under
administrative control – and the democracy within them was rather formal. Nevertheless, the co-
operative sector continued growing, especially during the period of 1985 until 1990 when the state
allowed private business initiatives through the co-operative form; during these years many industrial
co-operatives were built up until the independence of the country in the early 1990s.

Latvian co-operatives are making strong efforts in order to accomplish the final step in the transition
to real democratic participation and membership control and are supported by a specific co-operative
legal statute.

New co-operatives have emerged in various fields and the former consumer co-operatives have
experienced an important growth, representing one third of all co-operatives in Latvia and a market
share of 12.3% in the food industry sector. In addition, Latvian consumer co-operatives still play a
social role in the rural areas; they carry out multi-functional activities in production, wholesaling and
retail sales.

Besides the Latvian Central Co-operative Union of Consumer Societies there are several wholesale
organizations, many industrial enterprises, delivery unions, fur-farms and co-operative educational
establishments. The newly established farm owned co-operatives, which are also represented by the
Latvian Agricultural Cooperatives Association, have received some assistance from Denmark and
Sweden because of their substantial experience in that field. The housing and the financial sectors are
represented by the Association of Flat Owners’ Cooperatives and the Association of Credit Unions.

Social dialogue in Latvia

The social dialogue in Latvia takes place mainly at an enterprise level. The role of the Latvian social
partners at intersectoral level is mainly limited to tripartite consultation, as the organizations admit
that they have currently only limited experience of bilateral negotiation. The issues discussed during
the past few years have mostly concerned the harmonization of Latvian legislation with EU Directives
and Regulations. The most frequently recurring themes have been job safety, the pension scheme and

At an enterprise level, the collective labor law allows the election of a work council by all employees as
well as trade union representation – although clear competencies are not defined. Works Councils can
conclude collective agreements at company level but also organize industrial actions. Company
agreements that require a local trade union organization are rare because of the weak representative
structures, particularly in SMEs.

Main social partners

The Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia (Latvijas Brīvo Arodbiedrību savienība – LBAS) is the
only trade union confederation, and has 24 affiliated organizations. Latvia has the strongest union
representation out of the three Baltic States, even though it is also affected by a continuous decline in
union density in the last years caused by privatization.

In contrast to the employees’ confederation, employer associations are divided into several
organizations, often without clear boundaries between their spheres of activity and areas of influence.
The single partner for the social dialogue with trade unions is the Latvian Employers’ Confederation
(Latvijas Darba Devēju konfederācija – LDDK), the strongest employer confederation. A small number
of the employers led by former directors of large public companies founded the Confederation of
Industry, which does not usually act as a social partner and has only a modest influence on social

The Latvian Employers’ Confederation strongly supports social dialogue but in most cases there is no
mandate for collective agreements at sectoral level. To date no sectoral or multi-employer agreements
(i.e. with detailed regulations and precise provisions for wages and working conditions) have been
concluded in the private sector. However, there are such agreements in several of public companies
and administration sectors which are then often extended.


The co-operative organizations do not yet take part in this emerging environment of social dialogue,
neither indirectly or directly. The co-operative movement in Latvia, being mainly organised in sectoral
organizations, consider that any future participation – especially at a national sectoral level – would be
an important matter.


Area 65.301 sq km
Population 3,4 million
Economic growth 8,0 %
Unemployment rate 4,1 %
Language Lithuanian
Capital Vilnius
Currency Litas


The first consumer co-operative was founded in 1869, during a period the region was part of Russia.
Consumer co-operatives grew rapidly toward the end of the 19th century, and even though many
failed, there were enough successful ones by the time Lithuania declared its independence in 1918.
The Lithuanian Consumers’ Co-operative Association was founded in 1923. During the independence
years, the co-operative movement developed further into agricultural, producer, consumer, credit and
insurance activities. Similar to the Latvian case, only the consumer co-operative structure survived the
Soviet period as it was integrated in the centrally planned economy. Its principal role was the supply
of consumer goods to rural areas.

With the new independence for Lithuania in 1991, the consumer co-operative structure has been
reorganised and again included in the private sector. Many of the anticipated changes in the co-
operative system are still ongoing and the housing co-operatives have experienced a steady growth.
Agriculture has been privatised again and farmer companies have been created, most of them being
transformed into co-operatives, or are still in the transformation process. The local co-operatives own
a significant trade network that covers 20-30 % of the regional trade market.

Lithuanian co-operatives have a specific legal statute and agricultural co-operatives are submitted to a
specific taxation regime. Special aids and grants are also allocated to agricultural co-operatives, but
these are the same as those for other companies.

Like the Latvian co-operative movement, the Lithuanian one is currently hindered by social and
economical reasons, insufficient legal basis and in many cases a lack of support from their respective

Social dialogue in Lithuania
To date, there is only one sectoral agreement in the private sector – in agriculture – which was
concluded in 2005. There are collective agreements at company level but only if there is workplace

In most cases, there is no possibility to negotiate at sectoral level because the sectoral trade unions
do not have anybody to talk to. There are very few sectoral employers’ associations, which is also true
at regional level where very few collective agreements have been concluded.

Social dialogue and consultation among the social partners at national level in the Tripartite Council
(based on a formal agreement from 1995) seems to be gaining in effectiveness. In the National
Tripartite Council, the employers’ confederations and trade unions are represented and they work by
consensus. If no consensus or agreement is reached, decisions are usually postponed.

Issues discussed on the Tripartite Council are usually of a global nature, such as labour conditions,
wages, social security and unemployment. One of its main achievements was recently the preparation
of the new Labour Code. The outcomes of tripartite discussions are recommendations which may be
implemented by law as new resolutions or as amendments to old resolutions adopted by the

Main social partners

The main trade union confederations are the Lithuanian Trade Unions Confederation (Lietuvos
profesiniu sajungu konfederacija – LPSK), Solidarumas (Lietuvos profesine sajunga Solidarumas) and
the Lithuanian Labour Federation (Lietuvos darbo federacija – LDF).

On the employers’ side there are two confederations: the Confederation of Lithuanian Industrialists
(Lietuvos Pramonininkų konfederacija – LPK) and the Lithuanian Business Employers Confederation
(Lietuvos verslo darbdavių konfederacija – LVDK). Both confederations signed in 2004 an agreement
to improve their mutual co-operation with the aim of co-ordinating actions and representing common
positions in public and international organizations.


For Lithuanian co-operative enterprises, the participation in the social dialogue requires the
membership of a national sectoral or intersectoral co-operative organization.

The Lithuanian Consumer Co-operative Union is the main Lithuanian co-operative organization actively
taking part in the social dialogue. It participates on a regular basis at both sectoral and intersectoral
consultation levels. Its participation is indirect in the sense that, depending on the issues, it will be
achieved through the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists or the Lithuanian Trade association –
thus not specifically as a co-operative organization.

The Lithuanian Consumer Co-operative Union covers various issues in terms of consultation: the
negotiations of wage scales, working hours, working conditions and unemployment policies. Joint
actions with other social partners can be initiated and it also has the ability to conclude collective
bargaining agreements. To achieve its missions, the Lithuanian Consumer Co-operative Union is
vested with a negotiating mandate effective at the national sectoral level.


Area 3.000 sq km
Population 0,5 million
Economic growth 4,1 %
Unemployment rate 4,6 %
Language French, German, Luxembourgish
Capital Luxembourg
Currency Euro


In 1808, the first agricultural co-operatives were established in Luxemburg. From then on, the
agricultural structure has been predominant in the national co-operative movement. These co-
operatives are currently represented by the Luxemburg Central Agricultural Association – a regrouping
of the previously independent co-operative associations.

In 1855 a home builder’s association reflecting co-operative interests was established and from 1925
on, Raiffeisen rural banks appeared. Co-operatives are quite active in the viticultural field and
represent 61,9% of the farmable land for wine. These co-operatives account for 94% of the national
wine exports.

Amongst the other business forms in Luxemburg, co-operatives have a specific legal statute. But
unlike in the majority of the European member states, primary co-operatives are associations and not
companies. The co-operative movement is still quite small in Luxemburg, and represents about 2.000
employees, working in 50 different co-operative enterprises.

Social dialogue in Luxemburg

There is no inter-sector level of collective bargaining. The two main bargaining levels are the sector
and the company ones. However, the Industrial Relations Act of 2004 makes cross-sector agreements
possible. About 60% of employees have their terms and conditions of employment regulated by
collective bargaining, which is rather low compared to other Western European countries. But all
collective agreements have an ‘erga omnes’ effect.

Even if there is no cross-sector collective bargaining, tripartite consultation is important in the

consensus-seeking ‘Luxembourg model’ and depends on a large network of institutions. The two most
important are the “Economic and Social Council (ESC)”, which is the government’s permanent

consultative body for socio-economic matters - often called on at the first stage of drafting laws or
other decisions -and the “Tripartite Coordination Committee” which brings together representatives of
employers, employees, and the public authorities

Main social partners

Two trade union confederations are recognized as national representative unions and are mainly
active in the private sector: the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (OGB-L) – a group of 16
trade unions with a total of 50.000 members – and the Confederation of Christian Unions in
Luxembourg (LCGB), which represents 40.000 members. Besides these two confederations, an
important white collar union (ALEBA) is active in the banking, financial services and insurance sector.
In the public sector the CGFP (Confédération Générale de la Fonction Publique) is the largest trade
union, while the FGFC (Fédération Générale de la Fonction Communale) is active in the local public

The principal confederation is the Union of Luxemburg Enterprises (UEL), representing all the private
sector companies, except those related to the primary sector, namely the: Federation of Luxembourg
Industrialists (FEDIL) the Luxembourg Bankers’ Association (ABBL), the Insurance Companies
Association (ACA), the Commerce Employers Association (CLC), the Federation of Artisans, the Hotel
and Catering Employers Association (HORESCA) and the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of

As in Austria and some parts of Germany, Luxembourg still has an elaborated professionals’ chamber
system (with a representative function). Chambers have legal status and membership is obligatory.
They have the statutory right to be consulted by the public authorities on all social and economic
issues affecting their members’ interests. They also have the right to submit proposals for legislation.
In certain policy areas, they even function as public administrative bodies.


Co-operative organizations in Luxemburg do not participate in the social dialogue. Because of their
small size, participation is not really a first priority for the organizations.


Area 316 sq km
Population 0,4 million
Economic growth 2%
Unemployment rate 7,5 %
Language Maltese, English
Capital Valletta
Currency Euro (will be adopted in January


The first co-operatives in Malta emerged in 1947 in the fruit and vegetables retailing sector.
Meanwhile, a Co-operative Societies Ordinance was being introduced by the British Colonial
Government, followed by the establishment of a governmental co-operative department. In 1978 a
more detailed Act was adopted in replacement of that Ordinance. The Act was again amended to
meet the needs of new forms of co-operatives, especially in the worker and social fields, and the
present Act came finally into force in April 2001.

At the beginning of the Maltese co-operative movement, most co-operatives were active in the
agricultural and fishing sector. A Secondary Co-operative, the Farmers’ Central Co-operative
organization was set up acting as a marketing and purchasing agent for eight large Primary
agricultural co-operatives. Meanwhile co-operatives have diversified their activities in fields such as
transport, management, marketing consultancy, fair trade, tourism and community care.

Nowadays, three main bodies can be identified: the Apex organization, which is the organization of
Maltese Co-operatives and in which nearly all Maltese co-operatives are affiliated, the Co-operative
Board and the Central Co-operative Fund. Due to the small size of the country and the limited number
of co-operative societies in Malta, there are neither sectoral nor intersectoral organizations. However,
within Apex Malta, the main divisions are the agricultural sector, the fisheries sector, the services
sector and the worker co-operatives. Besides these organizations, the Co-operatives Council
supervises the co-operative movement and monitors its development. It also analyses the economic
context in which co-operatives evolve.

Maltese co-operatives can easily be identified amongst all business forms: besides having a specific
legal statute, they are also submitted to a specific taxation regime and can apply for certain aids and
grants. They are also easily identified through their representative bodies.

Very recently, an action plan for co-operatives has been launched based on the government’s
commitment to encourage businesses to consider the advantages of joining or forming a co-operative.
Furthermore, the European Association of Co-operative Banks (EACB) expressed the intention of
helping the Maltese co-operative movement in the establishment of a first Maltese Co-operative Bank.

Social dialogue in Malta

Industrial relations are regulated by the Employment and Industrial Relations Act (EIRA, 2002). The
main legal provisions include the establishment of a tripartite Employment Relations Board (ERB)
which has a consultative function to the government on a wide range of issues concerning labour
legislation. After consultations with the ERB, the basic themes concerning employment are worked out
by the government. These minimum conditions are regularly adjusted in accordance to the directives
issued by the European Commission.

There is no established mechanism in Malta for bipartite social dialogue, neither at an inter-
professional nor a sectoral level. Bipartite social dialogue between employers and trade unions takes
only place at enterprise level and is voluntary.

During the last two decades, there has been an impressive development of national bargaining within
the Maltese Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD). This tripartite, consultative
institution is increasingly being considered as a main protagonist for the development of economic and
social policy.

Main social partners

Malta has three unions taking part in the social dialogue, being the General Workers’ Union (GWU),
the Confederation of Maltese Trade Unions (CMTU) and the Union of United workers (UHM). On the
other side are five employer confederations. These main confederations are the Federation of Industry
(FOI), the Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise, the Malta Employers’ Association (MEA), the Malta
Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) and the Maltese Chamber of Small and Medium
Enterprises (GRTU).


In Malta there is a strong social dialogue: important negotiations are often conducted with the support
of trade unions. Maltese co-operatives have to be a member of national sectoral co-operative
organization in order to take part in the social dialogue. As the only co-operative organization in Malta,
APEX represents and promotes the co-operatives’ interests.

APEX is involved in social dialogue on a regular basis at both intersectoral and sectoral national levels.
Its participation can be direct in some cases – meaning that it takes part as a specific co-operative
organization – or indirect through unions.

Very few co-operative societies in Malta employ non-members. Most of them are run by the members
themselves (particularly the Worker Co-operatives). Therefore wage negotiations are conducted for
example by the elected management committees of the various co-operatives on an individual basis.
On occasion, trade unions are asked to lend their support and expertise in these negotiations.


Area 41.526 sq km
Population 16,4 million
Economic growth 1,3 %
Unemployment rate 5%
Language Dutch
Capital Amsterdam
Currency Euro


The Netherlands was amongst a small group of European countries that established a broad-based co-
operative movement. The first laws regarding co-operatives were adopted in 1855 and the first
consumer co-operative was founded in 1860. Agricultural credit co-operatives were very much
structured by the late 1890s so that a co-operative union of Raiffeisen-type credit co-operatives
(predecessor of the current Rabobank) had been organised. At the turn of the 20th century, credit,
dairy, horticultural and marketing enterprises had been established, followed in the next decade by
unions but as well as co-operatives for sugar, soap and fertilizer production, insurance societies, a
consumer wholesale society and a federation of housing co-operatives.

The Dutch co-operative movement is characterised by the diversity of its enterprises. An important
development, particularly among agricultural societies, has been strengthening significantly the co-
operative reality. A special aspect of the Dutch co-operative development has been the fact that it
ignored the co-operative principle of political and religious neutrality, with co-operative societies
organised mainly under Protestant, Catholic, Socialist, and Christian Democratic ideologies. But these
divisions have been tempered by the establishment of the National Co-operative Council, which was
founded in 1934 and which is the central organization of almost all Dutch agricultural and horticultural

During the last decades, many co-operatives have been created in the Netherlands, with the
agricultural sector still being the dominant one in terms of enterprises and employees, while the
insurance sector incorporates the highest number of members. The Top 100 co-operatives represent a
combined turnover of 89,5 billion Euros.

Co-operatives in the Netherlands have a specific legal statute, and some of them are submitted to a
specific taxation.

Social dialogue in the Netherlands
Industrial relations in the Netherlands are based on consensus amongst the state, employer
organizations, and trade unions to stimulate economic development and welfare. The government is
involved in the elaboration of framework agreements, which are fully bargained by the social partners
at decentralised levels.

It may seem that bargaining occurs at sector and company level but national level plays an important
coordinating role by means of central agreements that are concluded within the Labour Foundation.
The sector level is the primary level where the employer organizations and trade unions meet for

Main social partners

The main trade union confederations are FNV (the most important in terms of size and members) and
CNV (Christian National Trade Association). About 360,000 employees are member of an affiliated
trade union. The CNV still describes itself as a Christian union, coming from a tradition of Protestant
trade unionism and an affiliation with the Christian Democratic party.

There two most important employer confederations are the VNO-NCW (Confederation of Netherlands
Industry and Employers - now the only confederation in industry and services) and MKB Nederland
(Association of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises).


A homogenous picture of the co-operatives’ involvement in the social dialogue can not be drawn.
Specific situations can be underlined but no pattern can be clearly identified. No distinction is made
between the co-operative form and the other business forms.

In the Netherlands, there are no intersectoral co-operative organizations because of the specialization
of the business activities of Dutch co-operatives. NCR, the association of co-operatives from
agriculture and horticulture is not involved in social dialogue for its member organizations but it has
two sister organizations: the Central Society for Co-operative Trading (Cecoha) and the Central
Society for Co-operative Industry (Cecoin), both founded in 1951. They still take part on a board level
in so called product or industry boards, semi-public organizations in which employer’s and employee
organizations participate. Therefore there is representation of co-operatives’ interests but not
specifically on social economic subjects.

For taking part in social dialogue, the size of the enterprise and the sector appear to be important
criteria and not the fact that a firm is a co-operative or not. Sectoral organizations often unite both co-
operative and non-co-operative organizations – they have their field of business in common, the
organizational form is not an important aspect.

Sectoral organizations sometimes take part in the social dialogue for their employees (like the meat
sector, both co-operative or non-co-operative enterprises join forces, the same for the dairy sector
where NZO represents the dairy companies, or NEVEDI for the feed companies). It appears again that
the entrepreneurial form of the company does not really play a role. AVEBE is a co-operative potato
starch company - the only one in the Netherlands - and they negotiate with the labour unions, the
same goes for Suikerunie, the sugar company of cooperative Royal Cosun, Rabobank and several
other co-operatives.

Another example of the diversity of the situation towards social dialogue is that the four Dutch co-
operative flower auctions which work together in an association or umbrella organization for the Dutch
co-operative floricultural auctions: VBN, but members like Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer have their own

negotiations about collective agreements. On the other hand the largest mutual insurance companies
are members of the federation FOV, having 135 members out of the total of an estimated 200. But
FOV does not play a role in social dialogue for its members. The branch organization in the dairy
sector has both co-operatives and non-co-operatives as member organizations and takes care of
collective agreements. Sometimes the negotiations involve representatives of the sector, but not of
the co-operative sector as such.

Several sectoral co-operative organizations (dairy, meat) are members of VNO NCW, the biggest of
the 3 national employers’ organization. The others are MKB for SME and LTO Nederland, the farmer’s
organization. These three organizations are, together with trade unions, members of SER, the main
advisory body to the Dutch government and the parliament on national and international social and
economic policy.


Area 312.218 sq km
Population 38,1 million
Economic growth 3,2 % (6 % est. 2007)
Unemployment rate 11.6%
Language Polish
Capital Warszawa
Currency Zloty (PLN)


With the collapse of communism, the co-operative movement, which had been a means for the state
to control certain sectors of the economy, had to face a profound reorganization. The new
government was reluctant to see the development of co-operatives still tied to the old system. But the
reality of economy and its social dimensions helped the co-operative movement to modernise and to
become an essential economic motor, especially in matters of job creation. Co-operatives were also
seen as an interesting structure, as members had a strong relation to their work unit, this being
specific to co-operatives in comparison to other business forms.

The transformation of co-operatives to adapt to free market – but also to dissociate from their past
use under the communist system – was done at different levels: the co-operatives remained active in
social activities such as disabled and blind persons’ workers’ co-operatives, being a Polish specificity;
but for other co-operatives, although they still operated in the same sector, their activities went
through some changes and reorganizations. This was for example the case with housing co-
operatives, which are now in charge mainly of the administration of the existing housing stocks and
resources and not of constructing new housing units. A large number of co-operatives did not survive
this transformation process – for 15,236 societies existing in 1989 only 9,311 remained active in
February 2007 (i.e. 61.1%); only in few cases mergers were responsible for this fact, that resulted
mainly from collapses, liquidations and conversions into limited companies under private ownership.

This transformation period operated the redefinition of the co-operative landscape, renewing it with
the values and principles of the first co-operatives. But many co-operatives had to face above these
simultaneously new factors, such as the integration to the European Union and its impact on
agricultural and dairy-farming co-operatives. The latter had problems adapting to this new market and
decided to merge in stronger units that enabled them to modernize their plants and to adjust
themselves to the EU standards. Although the situation is stabilising, there is the need – expressed by

the Polish co-operative movement – to see more incentives coming from the Polish government to
attract the next generation into co-operatives.

Since the Co-operative Law of 1982 (with several amendments passed in the following years, mainly
after 1990), Polish co-operatives have obtained a specific legal statute. There are also some specific
laws regarding housing co-operatives, credit unions, co-operative banks and social co-operatives. In
these regulations co-operatives are defined as a specific kind of private enterprise.

The specific representative body of the whole co-operative movement is the National Co-operative
Council (NCC). It is the only existing intersectoral organization, including all co-operatives, as
according to the Co-operative Law they should be registered within the NCC. The Auditing Unions also
play a representative role, but only for their specific sectors; although they register also within the
NCC, they operate independently and the membership of single societies in the unions is not

It can also be noted, that many new forms of co-operatives have appeared during the last decade;
some examples are the peasants’ marketing groups, social co-operatives, the telephone co-operative
companies, and new credit unions. In the urban area, the most common co-operatives are the
housing ones.

Social dialogue in Poland

Most collective bargaining takes place at company level and covered nearly 120.000 workers in the
last years, most of them being active in the industrial sector. The issues included remuneration,
working time, cooperation with trade unions, and the social fund. The existence of collective
agreements always depends if an organized union is present. The state has therefore a major function
in setting norms for industrial relations. A particular problem is the implementation and control of legal
norms. The transition to a new industrial relations process is not yet accomplished.

In 2001, a Law was passed on the Tripartite Commission for Socio-economic Affairs and on
“Voivodships” Commissions of Social Dialogue.14 Under the terms of this law, the aim of the tripartite
commission is to achieve social peace. The dialogue that takes place within the Commission relates to
matters of remuneration, social benefits and other socio-economic matters, and is led by 12 tripartite
sectoral working groups. The resolutions of the Tripartite Commission that are passed are binding on
the parties, but a member may put forward a nonbinding motion if no consensus has been reached.
The Voivodship Commissions of Social Dialogue – organized in 16 regional Commissions – discusses
issues like economic growth, the labour market, environmental protection, and education. These
tripartite negotiations are at a development stage, but seem to work effectively, although a lack of
resources and an absence of expertise can be observed.

Main social partners

The trade union movement includes three main organizations, which are also, as representative
confederations, members of the national tripartite commission: the All Poland Alliance of Trade Unions
(Ogólnopolskie Porozumienie Związków Zawodowych – OPZZ), the Independent Self-Governing Trade
Union “Solidarity” (NSZZ “Solidarność”) and the Trade Unions Forum (Forum Związków Zawodowych –

On the employers’ side, four confederations are represented on the national tripartite commission: the
most important is the Confederation of Polish Employers (Konfederacja Pracodawców Polskich – KPP),
the Business Centre Club (BCC), the Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan (Polska
Konfederacja Pracodawców Prywatnych – PKPP), and the Association of Polish Crafts (Związek
Rzemiosła Polskiego – ZRR).

The voivodeship is a second-level administrative unit in Poland, equivalent to a province


As the only intersectoral organization for co-operatives in Poland, the National Co-operative Council
(NCC) participates directly (i.e. specifically as a co-operative organization) in the social dialogue at
national intersectoral level. The Union of Polish Handicrafts also takes part in the social dialogue, but
it does so at both sectoral and intersectoral levels.

The National Co-operative Council participates in the Tripartite Commission for Social and Economic
Affairs only as an observer. The reason is, that according to Polish Co-operative Law, the National Co-
operative Council (although it federates co-operative societies which are an important employer) is not
considered as an employers’ organization. However, the need for a strong direct representation as an
employers’ organization has been expressed. This proposal was included in the draft of the new co-
operative law drafted with the participation of co-operatives. However, the Parliament has not yet
examined this draft. The Union of Polish Handicrafts – being a representative organization of
handicrafts co-operatives, chambers, guilds and individual artisans – participates not as a co-operative
organization but as an employers’ organization. Both organizations’ participation is on a regular basis.

When it comes to negotiations on issues relevant to their members, the NCC (as an observer) and the
Union of Polish Handicrafts (as a negotiator) cover a large spectrum of issues: wage scales, working
hours, working conditions, unemployment policies. Joint actions can also be considered with other
social partners. The Union of Polish Handicrafts is vested with a negotiating mandate in sectoral and
intersectoral consultations; it is also qualified to sign collective bargaining agreements.

Concerning the regional (“voivodships”) level of social dialogue, co-operatives are represented by
regional proxies of the National Co-operative Council.


Area 92.391 sq km
Population 10,6 million
Economic growth 1%
Unemployment rate 7,6 %
Language Portuguese
Capital Lisbon
Currency Euro


Pre-co-operative activity can be found as early as 1850 but it wasn’t until 1870 that the first co-
operative was recognized and the commercial code of 1871 made a reference to co-operatives. From
the 1920s onwards, organised efforts were undertaken to expand the co-operative effort, particularly
with consumer co-operatives. Development continued slowly, and national sectoral organizations were
formed for co-operatives in agriculture, consumer, credit, fisheries, housing, and worker productive
sections, as well as specific representative bodies. Co-operatives in Portugal are submitted to a
specific taxation regime. Portugal has very identifiable co-operative legislation with the co-operative
principle inscribed in the State Constitution.

The sectors that contributed most to the co-operative reality were agriculture and education. The
latter is a consequence of the experience gained from the educational system in Portugal covering
various areas as special needs, preschool, basic, secondary and higher education. An interesting
pattern has been the co-existence of public co-operative and private non co-operative establishments
which have complemented each other in meeting the growing demand for educational services. Co-
operatives in the agricultural sector are very active in the dairy farming, the wine production and the
trade of agricultural products. They experienced a strong growth especially in the 1970’s until the

Set up in 1999, a new department was created regarding co-operatives of social aide. The
development program for co-operatives offers major support to the creation of new co-operatives and
to the reinforcement of existing ones through creation of jobs, investments, professional trainings and
development studies.

Social dialogue in Portugal
In 1984, central government set up a national body for tripartite macro-concertation, the Standing
Council for Social Concertation (Conselho Permanente de Concertação Social, CPCS), to monitor
labour disputes, but also to consult social partners on its economic and social policy. In 1991, the
CPCS became a commission integrated into the newly created Economic and Social Council (Conselho
Económico e Social, CES), maintaining its autonomy and central role for macro-concertation.

The government and the social partners meet in the Economic and Social Council on matters of social
consultation and dialogue. The council has a consultative function for economic and social policies.
Although not legally binding, some council agreements have been influential in developing regulations
on issues such as health and safety. Tripartite social pacts have been signed outside the regular
system of collective agreements.

Collective bargaining is organized at several levels. As a rule, the more specific agreements prevail
over the more general ones. But no collective agreement has been signed at inter-sector level yet.
Therefore, the collective bargaining is witnessed at two levels: the sector and the company. The
sector has traditionally been the more dominant bargaining level.

Main social partners

There are two major trade union confederations:the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers,
Intersindical (Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses, CGTP) and the General Workers'
Union (União Geral de Trabalhadores, UGT).

On the employers’ side, there are four confederations on the CPCS: the Confederation of Commerce
and Services of Portugal (CCP), the Confederation of Portuguese Industry (CIP), the Confederation of
Portuguese Farmers (Confederação dos Agricultores de Portugal, CAP), the Confederation of
Portuguese Tourism (Confederação do Turismo Português, CTP).


Both intersectoral organizations CONFAGRI and CONFECOOP take part directly (specifically as co-
operatives organizations) and on a regular basis in the social dialogue at sectoral and intersectoral
levels. In order to enter the social dialogue, co-operative enterprises in Portugal must answer one of
two conditions: be a member of a sectoral or intersectoral organization.

In regard to social consultations, CONFAGRI and CONFECOOP are vested with a negotiating mandate
at both sectoral and intersectoral levels. Issues on which negotiations take place are: working hours,
working conditions, unemployment policies. Joint actions with social partners can also be achieved.
Both organizations have the power to conclude collective bargaining agreements.


Area 238.392 sq km
Population 21,6 million
Economic growth 4%
Unemployment rate 7,2 %
Language Romanian
Capital Bucharest
Currency New Leu


In 1852 the first co-operative was set up as a credit society which was followed by craft co-operatives
and other credit co-operatives. The co-operative movement further developed so as to be a
recognized movement and Romanian co-operatives were invited to participate in the founding meeting
of the ICA in London in 1895.

After World War II, a renewal process was attempted but the quick establishment of a communist
government in 1947 had the effect of integrating co-operatives in the centrally planned economy.
Farms suffered from collectivisation in state farms and collective production co-operatives were
created. Together, these came to include 90% of farmland. Consumer and producer co-operatives
were able to maintain some of their original features but were submitted to frequent state
intervention. With the downfall of communist rule, almost all agricultural co-operatives have been
privatised and co-operatives have suffered from their ties to the communist system. The consumer
movement and the sector involving worker productive and service functions have been rehabilitated
with many of their old members.

The handicraft co-operatives, due to its local character, have had some problems in dealing with the
transformation process. Fulfilling the needs of the population on a local basis had been easy since
they were the only suppliers. Development and new behaviour towards the market have been
encouraged. The consumer co-operatives and credit co-operatives followed a similar path but have
managed to further adapt themselves to a certain extent.

As the SPP project started in November 2006, only the former 25 EU member states participated in the project. The
information concerning Bulgaria and Romania is therefore not complete, as they joined the EU only in 2007. Nevertheless, we
tried to integrate them within this report as far as possible.

Social dialogue in Romania
Institutionalised tripartite consultation in Romania started with the establishment of the Tripartite
Secretariat for Social Dialogue. The Economic and Social Council (ESC) is a public institution of
national interest. It is the most important structure of tripartite consultation at national level. It is
asked “to formulate suggestions relating to normative projects; to inform the government, on the
basis of analyses and studies, of the appearance of economic and social phenomena that will make it
necessary to draft new legislation; to analyse the causes of conflict situations and to make proposals
as to their solution in the national interest” (Article 6 of the Government Decision No 349/1993).

Employers’ and workers’ representatives in Romania conclude Collective Work Contracts at national,
sectoral and enterprise level. These contracts, which are negotiated annually, are obligatory for all
enterprises with more than 21 workers. To be able to conclude a Collective Work Contract, the social
partners have to be representative (i.e. at national, sectoral or enterprise level, as appropriate).

Tripartite Social Agreements (social peace agreements) are signed at national level, and are not
concluded in a tripartite body, but on the government’s initiative. The signing of an agreement is a
drawn-out process; one major reason for this is the number of social partners.


Area 49.034 sq km
Population 5,4 million
Economic growth 6%
Unemployment rate 9%
Language Slovak
Capital Bratislava
Currency Slovak Koruna


The Slovak Republic has a long tradition of co-operation, with the establishment of the Farmer’s Guild
as the first credit co-operative in 1845. This co-operative society laid down the foundation for the
world-wide co-operative movement together with the Weber’s Association in Rochdale. Since then, the
co-operatives have experienced a steady growth.

The 20th century was characterized by many changes and a generally turbulent environment which
reduced co-operative development. During the inter-war period, the country which was still part of the
democratic and prosperous Czechoslovakia, was under continuous pressure from the revisionist
governments of Germany and Hungary until it was finally broken up in 1939. Ten years later,
Czechoslovakia came under the influence of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact. In 1969, the state
became a federation of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic.

The end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989, during the peaceful Velvet Revolution, was
followed once again by the country's splitting, but this time into two successor states. The Czech
Republic and Slovakia went their separate ways after January 1, 1993, whilst remaining close
partners. Following 1989, there was a will to get rid of co-operatives because of their connection to
the former communist system. The transformation process was the most difficult for the agricultural
co-operatives leading to an economic crisis. But also the consumer and housing co-operatives had to
face the instability of this period.

In 1992, the Commercial Code came into force and separated the co-operatives from other business
companies. An individual law on co-operatives is not in force in the Slovak Republic but the co-
operative societies are seen as independent legal entities within the Code of Commerce. In 1993 the
Co-operative Union of the Slovak Republic (CUSR) was founded; it is the highest co-ordinating body
representing the interests and development of the co-operative movement. It also collaborates with
educational institutions and participates in the training and education process. In latter years, with the
development of the Slovak economy, co-operatives have proved to be useful and have consolidated
their position in society as well as on the competitive market.

Social dialogue in the Slovak Republic

Slovakia has a multi-level system of collective bargaining with branch-level collective agreements,
company-level agreements and industry agreements. The legal framework is the basis for the
institutions and regulations. The tripartite Economic and Social Concertation Council, which was
replaced by the Economic and Social Partnership Council, was established by common declaration of
the social partners in 2004. The new Labour Code, which will be adopted in the near future, will give
the collective bargaining parties greater rights to negotiate on the structure of industrial relations, in
particular on working time. The principle of regulation by negotiation will be strengthened.

As mentioned, negotiations take place not only at tripartite national level, but also at sectoral and
company level. Sectoral employers’ associations and trade unions usually conclude bipartite
agreements, which establish the framework both for workers’ terms and conditions in a particular
sector and for the relationship between the partners. Such an agreement has the power of legislation,
and can be extended by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and the Family to workers who are not
members of the trade union that has concluded the agreement in question. Trade unions at enterprise
level and the employers can conclude bilateral agreements, namely company collective agreements,
which are linked to those concluded at sectoral level.

Main social partners

Regarding trade unions, the most significant organizations are the Confederation of Trade Unions of
the Slovak Republic (Konfederácia odborových zväzov Slovenskej republiky, KOZ SR) and two other
trade union groups, the Independent Christian Trade Unions of Slovakia and the Confederation of Art
and Culture (KUK).

On the employers’ side, the main organizations are the Federation of Employers’ Associations of the
Slovak Republic (Asociácia zamestnávateľských zväzov a združení Slovenskej republiky, AZZZ SR) and
the National Union of Employers of the Slovak Republic (Republiková únia zamestnávateľov Slovenskej
republiky, RUZ SR) established in 2004 with a focus in manufacturing industry, commerce, and SMEs.


The Slovak co-operatives which participate in the social dialogue are members of the national sectoral
co-operative organizations. The related co-operative organizations within the sectors of production
services (CPS16), agriculture and rural development (UACCS17) and housing (SUHC18), take part in the
social dialogue indirectly, mainly through the Republic’s Union of Employers. On the other hand,
consumers’ co-operatives represented by the CJS19 have direct access to negotiations through the
Trade Union of the Commerce and Tourism Employees, at intersectoral level (partially) as well as at
sectoral level. All the above organizations take part in the social dialogue on a regular basis.

The above mentioned co-operative organizations cover the following issues when involved in
negotiations: wages scales, working hours, working conditions, unemployment policies, training. Joint
actions with social partners can also be set up. CJS and SUHC have also both been vested with a
negotiating mandate at sectoral level.

CPS – COOP PRODUCT SLOVAKIA: producer’s cooperatives
UACCS: Union of Agricultural Cooperatives and Commercial Societies of the Slovak Republic
18 SUHC: Slovak Union of Housing Cooperatives
19 CJS: COOP Jednota Slovakia - consumer cooperatives


Area 20.253 sq km
Population 2,0 million
Economic growth 3,8 %
Unemployment rate 5,6 %
Language Slovenian
Capital Ljubljana
Currency Euro


The first co-operative in Slovenia was a credit co-operative and was created in 1851. The country was
at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A union of credit co-operatives was later established
in 1883 and a general co-operative union came to life in 1899. The first co-operative bank followed in

The history of co-operative development was bound up with that of Yugoslavia until Slovenia’s
independence in 1991. The Co-operative Act of 1992 – with some amendments in 1993, 1994 and
1996 – initiated a transformation process for co-operatives to adapt to the market economy and
permitted the restitution of the former co-operative property.

After gaining legal recognition, co-operatives in certain sectors acquired specific representative bodies.
Even though the co-operative union Zadružna zveza Slovenije (ZZS) has been considered as an
intersectoral co-operative organization – and still is to a certain extent in the Slovenian legislation –
reality is far different: ZZS is becoming more and more the sectoral organization in food and
agriculture, but the issue of co-operatives in general and co-operatives legislation remain the
monopoly of this organization.

There are now three important co-operative sectors: the agricultural sector, providing also various
marketing services to their farmer members; the housing co-operatives and the consumer co-
operatives dealing with wholesale and retail sales.

It is difficult to assess the economic and social impact of co-operatives but their major contribution is
certainly perceived as their ability to enable the weaker economical actors to have economic
independence and benefits from a specific business form. The rise of new co-operatives in 1997 has
been treated as an unsuccessful experiment; this experiment was managed by Employment offices
and subcontracted to institutions with little experience of co-operative organizations, treating them
like traditional businesses. At the beginning of 2007, the Slovenian government underlined the

importance of co-operatives and has encouraged their competitiveness which could have long-term
positive effects.

Like the surrounding member states, Slovenia is facing increased globalisation and liberalisation.
Initiatives have been undertaken so as to provide the possibility of commercial co-operation among
co-operatives and to make it easier for them to obtain state aid or respond to calls for funding but
these actions are still in development.

Social dialogue in Slovenia

A tripartite Economic and Social Council (ESC) was set up for social consultation in matters of labour
law, wages, and social politics as well as economic promotion. The legal basis of the ESC is a tripartite
agreement reached in 1994. There is a strong use of these tripartite social pacts; the most important
issue of tripartite consultation is wage coordination, but social pacts also cover a range of issues that
fall under the interest of social partners, e.g. taxation, employment, competitiveness, health and

The new laws on collective agreements as well as on Chambers of Commerce and Industry were
adopted in spring 2006. The question of criteria of representation for social partners remains open
and changes are expected in the composition of the ESC, where the Chamber of Commerce and
Industry is so far the dominating partner for trade unions negotiating sector-based collective wage

Bipartite social dialogue takes place at national, sectoral and company level, and there is a hierarchical
connection between the levels, the general and sectoral levels being the most important. Collective
agreements are signed at all levels and they have a general validity. The coverage rate is extremely
high with practically the whole workforce being covered by these agreements.

Collective bargaining at company-level works through Works Councils that serve as a general
representation alongside the trade union representatives at. These works councils have far-reaching
rights of information, consultation, and negotiation of company agreements, with the exception of
wage issues.

Main social partners

There are four main trade union associations: the Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia (Zveza
svobodnih sindikatov Slovenije, ZSSS), Neodvisnost, Confederation of New Trade Unions of Slovenia
(KNSS - represents only private industry), the Confederation of Trade Unions of Slovenia PERGAM
(private industry and the public sector), the Confederation of Trade Unions ’90 of Slovenia (private
industry and private services).

On the employers’ side, there are four main employers’ associations: the Chamber of Commerce and
Industry of Slovenia (GZS), the Association of Employers of Slovenia (ZDS), the Chamber of Crafts of
Slovenia (OZS), the Association of Employers for Crafts Activities of Slovenia (ZDODS).

A specificity of employer organizations is their double representation. On the one hand, there are the
two Chambers of Crafts and of Commerce and Industry. On the other hand, there are autonomous
confederations with voluntary membership. Together they are joint partners of the trade unions in the
process of collective negotiations. This status has been revised by new collective bargaining legislation
in 2006 in favour of autonomous employer confederations, according to usual EU procedures.


Zadružna zveza Slovenije (Co-operative Union) and Obrtna zbornica (the Chamber of crafts) participate
in the social dialogue on a regular basis at both sectoral and intersectoral levels, and their
participation can be qualified as direct since it is specifically as co-operative organizations that they
assist in consultations. Združenje kooperativ (the Association of co-operatives) is also involved in
consultations, but indirectly through the trade unions. Slovenian co-operative enterprises must be a
member of national intersectoral co-operative organization in order to take part in the social dialogue.

Zadružna zveza Slovenije is the only co-operative organization which takes part in the social dialogue
with a fixed membership. On the basis of the co-operative law and as mentioned above, it is supposed
to be the general association for co-operatives in Slovenia but in reality it isn’t as it is actually the
agrarian sectoral organization, but it isn’t clearly presented as such.

When Zadružna zveza Slovenije (Co-operative Union) and Obrtna zbornica (the Chamber of crafts) are
involved in social consultations, they cover the following issues: wage scales, working hours and
working conditions. Additionally, Združenje kooperativ (Association of co-operatives) is involved when
dealing with unemployment policies and joint actions with social partners, but it can not – as opposed
to the other two organizations – conclude collective bargaining agreements.


Area 504.782 sq km
Population 45,5 million
Economic growth 3%
Unemployment rate 9,2 %
Language Spanish
Capital Madrid
Currency Euro


The first workers’ co-operatives can be traced back to 1842, but the co-operative movement actually
started in 1860 when numerous co-operatives were created, mainly by industrial workers but also
farmers. The Spanish co-operative movement was inspired by the French movement which was
labour-oriented. Along with the workers’ initiative being influenced by the socialist doctrine, the
farmers’ co-operatives developed after 1890 were encouraged by the social doctrine of the Catholic
Church as a reaction to the existing social problems.

The period of the Second Republic (1931-1939) was a time of important development for all co-
operative sectors: agricultural, labour, consumers’, credit and housing co-operatives. But this
important growth was harmed by the outbreak of the Civil War (1936-1939), although the co-
operative system still developed in rural communities. This period was followed by the dictatorship of
Franco, which lasted until 1975. In 1942, a new Co-operatives Act was passed; it provided a more
precise general framework for the co-operatives, subordinating them to the official Trade Union
Organization of the National Movement and the State and establishing the Trade Union Work of Co-
operation as the supervising body of co-operatives’ activities.

In the 1980s, the co-operative sector experienced important changes which led to the current co-
operative landscape. While during Franco's rule the co-operatives had remained largely economically
and culturally isolated from the outside world, they began to open up and exchange experiences with
the neighbouring countries. Worker co-operatives became the most important part of the co-operative
sector. The majority of the worker co-operatives were created after 1980, notably in the education
and social services sectors. The agricultural co-operatives went through important transformations.
Co-operative organizations were active in areas where the institutions lack of intervention on specific
social matters was apparent.

It is difficult not to mention Mondragon when talking of Spanish co-operatives, the Basque co-
operative created in 1956, active in the financial and retail sectors. It is positioned as the 181st
European holding, the 5th in Spain and the 4th European employer. It has proved that although co-
operatives may generally be only small and scattered enterprises they can very well expand and
sustain development.

Spanish farm co-operatives play a key role on a social and economic level and have experienced
significant business development with most farm owner members of a co-operative. Co-operatives in
Spain can easily be distinguished from other business forms because of their specific legal statute and
taxation system. Moreover, they have identifiable representative bodies and the co-operative system
is constitutionally clearly highlighted in Spain.

Social dialogue in Spain

Social dialogue emerged in the second half of the 1970s, however collective agreements have been
regulated since 1958 and social partners, although in the opposition, were also accepted in the Franco
period. Nevertheless, political parties, trade unions and employer organizations got legal status only in
1977. Collective bargaining is regulated by the Spanish Constitution of 1978. The right to collective
bargaining is laid down in Section I of the constitution which means that it is part of the fundamental

Spain now has an advanced, recognized, and institutionalized system of bargaining and consultation.
It has a very large number of agreements on the level of companies, on the level of groups of
companies, but also on the provincial or national level of a sector.

Main social partners

There are two significant trade union confederations UGT and CC.OO. However, at the regional level,
some other unions are very important (for instance in the Basque or Galician regions). The public
sector has its own unions.

There exists only one important employer umbrella organization, the Confederacion Espanola de
Organizaciones Empresariales (CEOE). It has an associated confederation for SMEs, the Confederacion
Española de Pequeñas y Medianas Empresas (CEPYME). The regionalisation of the state structure has
encouraged a corresponding decentralisation of employer organizations with the autonomous
communities as an important arena for defending interests.


Co-operatives participate in the social dialogue between trade unions and employers’ organizations
through the CEPES (the Spanish Confederation for social economy’ enterprises). It is only through
CEPES that there can be witnessed a regular participation at intersectoral negotiations. Therefore
CEPES is able to promote the interests and communicate the demands of Spanish co-operatives. It
also has one representative at the European Economic and Social Council (EESC).

Nevertheless, there is no proper participation of the CEPES in national collective bargaining

agreements even though it participates in various round tables and negotiations, and this is mainly
through the Council for the Promotion of the Social Economy. In the negotiation process, CEPES
mainly focuses on unemployment policies and takes part in joint actions with other social partners.

Co-operative organizations active in sectors such as consumers, agriculture and transport express the
interests of their members, but only through sectoral forums or councils, as privileged actors; these
organizations manage to express co-operatives’ expectations on significant issues through regular
sectoral bodies (defending the interests of a sector and not specifically those of co-operatives), but
without really being involved in the negotiation of collective agreements.

New types of participation have emerged in the autonomous region of Andalucia, where CEPES
Andalucia has signed an agreement with public authorities and trade unions on the Andalucian Pact
for social economy. This Pact introduces more firmly social economy organizations (not only co-
operatives) in the regional social dialogue which has enabled an extension of the participation of co-
operatives in consultations.

Specific cases can be underlined such as that of the COCECTA (Spanish Confederation of workers’ co-
operatives) which has an active participation in the consultation process through a regular dialogue
with the Ministry of Labour, political parties and parliamentary representatives.


Area 449.964 sq km
Population 9,1 million
Economic growth 2,7 %
Unemployment rate 5,8 %
Language Swedish
Capital Stockholm
Currency Swedish Krona


In Sweden, the co-operative movement was mainly the outcome of adjustments to traditional mutual
aid arrangements already existing among farmers and villagers. The first agricultural co-operative was
a wholesale purchasing society established by farmers. In 1852, “food associations” were formed,
preceding the consumer retail societies. The Freedom of Commerce Law (1864) and specific co-
operative legislation in 1895 reinforced the position of co-operatives. By the end of the century a
central co-operative union of farmers in the south of Sweden had been set up. Kooperativa Förbundet
(KF), a consumer co-operative union and wholesale society, had been established and the first co-
operative dairies, housing societies, and savings and credit co-operatives emerged.

Co-operatives expanded rapidly in the first half of the 20th century. This development was also
accompanied by the creation of national federations. New areas of activity arose, such as banking,
crafts, fisheries, horticulture, recreation and transport. Co-operative structures for travel and services
and the provision of petroleum products also emerged. In the insurance sector, Folksam was
established and has since become a world-renowned co-operative. The role of co-operatives in the
provision of welfare and in other services developed over the past two decades supported by the FKU
Coompanion (co-operative development agencies) organization. Childcare co-operatives represented a
significant part of that development but the new co-operatives can be found in all sectors.

Both the agricultural co-operatives and the consumer co-operatives went through a consolidation
process which was reflected in the reduction of their number and new larger and more complex units.
Both sectors internationalized their activities. The Swedish agricultural co-operatives have been
investing in production facilities abroad. KF, the consumer cooperative federation, created together
with their Danish and Norwegian counterparts Coop Norden, a common sales organization. Coop
Norden dissolved in 2007. However co-operation in purchasing between the three countries remains.

From a legal perspective, co-operatives have a specific legal statute and can adopt several forms.
Usually an enterprise that is governed by co-operative principles registers itself as a co-operative
enterprise in the legal form of “ekonomisk förening”, which is the most appropriate legal form for such
an enterprise. However, enterprises that are co-operatives in form and principles can also register in
other legal forms, e.g. as a joint-stock company (aktiebolag). The larger co-operatives normally have
subsidiaries organised as joint stock companies. Housing co-operatives register under the particular
legal form of “bostadsrättsförening” which is a specific case of the “ekonomisk förening”, the regular
legal form.

Swedish co-operatives have always been very active on an international level; these organizations
have provided for more than 30 years active support to co-operatives in the developing countries
through the Swedish Co-operative Center and have actively supported an expanding network of ICA
regional offices.

Social dialogue in Sweden

There are two levels of collective bargaining (of pay, wage formation, and other working conditions):
the national and the enterprise level. The collective agreements at national level (förbundsavtal) are
today mainly sectoral and give the framework for the local agreements. These sectors can in some
cases be very broad (e.g. industry, local authorities, and central government authorities). After the
Second World War until the beginning of the 1980’s collective bargaining on wages and working
conditions was intersectoral covering the whole of the labour market.

The collective bargaining is exclusively done by the social partners and has for almost 100 years been
an important mechanism of the Swedish social dialogue. The Co-determination Act
(Medbestämmandelagen, MBL, 1977) is a key law for regulating employee consultation and
participation in working life; this Act empowers the unions and gives them the right to operate as the
collective agents for their members.

There is no institutionalized tripartite social dialogue in Sweden. The government does normally not
enter into the collective bargaining. However the government has set up an office for voluntary
mediation to assist in finding solutions in troublesome moments of the negotiations for new collective
agreements. Conflicts on the interpretation of collective agreements can ultimately be solved by the
Labour Court.

On economic and social policy matters the government hears the social partners on a regular informal
and formal basis.

Main social partners

The three main trade union confederations are the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO), the
Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees (TCO) and the Swedish Confederation of
Professional Associations (SACO). Nowadays there is a tight cooperation in collective bargaining and
within the broad sectoral dialogue common signed agreements.

On the employers’ side, the most important organizations are the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise
(Svenskt näringsliv, SN), the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Sveriges
kommuner och landsting SKL) and the Swedish Agency for Government Employers


There are four sectoral co-operative organizations representing three sectors: KF for consumers’ co-
operatives, LRF for agriculture co-operatives and Riksbyggen and HSB representing the housing co-
operatives. The four intersectoral co-operative organizations have different missions: KFO has the
particular mission to act as the representative for co-operative enterprises in the social dialogue, Koopi
(which from 2008 merges with KFO) has a mission of lobbying political institutions and organizing
common projects, FKU Coompanion organizes and develops new co-operative enterprises in all
sectors, and finally SCC, the Swedish Co-operative Centre, has the mission to support co-operative
entrepreneurship in developing countries.

Swedish co-operatives participate in the social dialogue as employers mainly through KFO which is the
most significant representative co-operative employers’ organization. KFO covers the co-operative
enterprises in Sweden except for the agricultural sector (which belongs to SN) and one major housing
co-operative federation, HSB (belonging to a small independent sectoral employers’ organization) KFO
takes part directly in the social dialogue at sectoral and intersectoral levels, and on a highly regular

The high and regular participation of KFO must be seen in the Swedish context of a historically strong
social dialogue process.

In the field of negotiations, KFO, as the most significant organization, covers a broad scope of issues:
wage scales, working hours, working conditions and unemployment policies. It has the ability to
conclude collective bargaining agreements. In order to pursue these negotiations, KFO is vested with
a negotiating mandate which can be exercised at sectoral and intersectoral levels. The membership of
KFO means that the member enterprise gives a mandate to negotiate with the trade unions according
to the statutes of the KFO.

At local level there is exchange of information, consultation and negotiation between the individual co-
operative enterprises and the representatives of the concerned local trade unions about matters
concerning the development of the enterprise and the implementation of the national collective
agreements and labour law. If the parties do not agree upon an issue they can consult the
representatives of the national employers’ organization and the national trade union to find a solution.
In the case of the issue not being solved between the KFO (taken as the reference organization) and
the concerned trade union there is a specific procedure for a voluntary and binding mediation and

Social dialogue on negotiations for collective agreements and their interpretation is well anchored in
Sweden. The co-operatives’ relations to the trade unions are excellent and lead to research of tailor-
made solutions for the co-operative enterprises. Co-operatives are keen to have a level playing field
with the other employers’ organizations in Sweden, particularly when it comes to the dialogue in
general and joint actions.

Regarding the social dialogue at the European level, there is a demand to have a common playing
field with the European organizations i.e. Business Europe, ETUC and CEEP without co-operatives
being discriminated. The exchange of experience, information and consultation on EU policies is a
priority, not direct negotiations on wages, working conditions and other matters that are already
regulated at national level. That means that it is appropriate for co-operatives to take part in dialogue
and joint actions on employment, training etc. and to consider common actions in these fields with the
trade unions.


Area 244.820 sq km
Population 60,5 million
Economic growth 2,3 %
Unemployment rate 4,8 %
Language English
Capital London
Currency Pound Sterling


It was Robert Owen who oversaw the model of industrial co-operation and who was the moving spirit
behind it; since then he is often considered as being the father of the co-operative movement. From
then on, organised co-operation began to emerge through several sectors of activity such as the
mutual fire insurance society, weavers’ co-operatives, collective mills and joint building societies.
However, it was in 1844, with the establishment of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, that
the modern co-operative movement in the United Kingdom emerged.

Up to World War I, many new consumer co-operatives appeared, as well as worker productive and
consumer wholesale societies, banking and housing co-operatives. Co-operative federations were set
up and other support groups were formed.

In the years following World War II, co-operatives had to go through a period of reconstruction and
reorganization. Consumer co-operatives were facing increasing competition, which led to the
restructuring of these organizations. Other sectors, such as co-operative housing and social care co-
operatives, were marginalised by the post-war welfare state and nationalisation, which gave the state
a central role in service provision. Production co-operatives remained static as a small proportion of
the movement, until a revival of interest in the 1970s.

Credit unions experienced a rapid expansion in recent years, but state regulations have limited their
size and range of activity. There has also been, during the latter years, a development of ‘community
co-operatives’, with membership open to people in a particular locality who support the aims of the
enterprise, along side the more ‘regular’ members like employees or customers. Some of them have
been encouraged by public policy measures in order to enrich the economic landscape and improve
social inclusion. Examples for this have been community broadband telephone connectivity and wind
energy generation. Another adaptation to evolving needs have been the ‘hybrid’ co-operatives, with
different classes of membership, such as a social care co-operative which provides housing and
employment for its members recovering from mental illness. In general, co-operatives do also enjoy a
specific legal statute even though this does not cover all co-operatives.

In 2000, a high level Co-operative Commission was established with the support of the government
and the Trade Union Congress.

An unusual feature of the UK co-operative movement is the existence of the Co-operative Party, a
political party, established in 1917. There are 29 members of parliament elected on a ‘Labour and Co-
operative’ ticket – the only basis on which the Co-operative Party is allowed to put up candidates for
election to parliament.

Social dialogue in UK
The system of industrial relations in the UK has been characterised by the relative absence of
intervention by the state, therefore leaving space for voluntary collective bargaining as the preferred
method of labour regulation. The law tends not to impose solutions but is used, where appropriate,
only to assist in arriving at them.

Unlike the position in many other countries, collective agreements are not legally binding. Contents of
collective agreements are usually subsequently included in individual employment contracts, which are
legally enforceable. Collective bargaining at sectoral level has decreased considerably in recent years;
it has been decentralized to lower levels, often to that of the individual employer.

Main social partners

On the employees’ side, there exists only one trade union confederation in the United Kingdom, the
Trade Union Congress (TUC). On the employers’ side, there is the Confederation of British Industry
(CBI), which has – like the TUC – no mandate to collectively bargain and bind its affiliates. The CBI
represents large companies in the private sector and is regarded by the government as its main
interlocutor with business, although there is also a Federation of Small Business. Employer
organizations have a much lower profile in the industrial relations system than they do in most of the
other EU countries.


UK co-operatives take part in the social dialogue. The participation is not conditioned by any

Co-operative organizations participate at national sectoral level and their participation can be qualified
as direct since it is specifically as co-operative organization that they do so. According to the sectors
involved, they partake in the social dialogue on an occasional (agriculture, farmers’ retail) to regular
basis (farming and food, credit unions). The Association of British Credit Unions Limited and the
Confederation of Co-operative Housing, for example, are regular participants.

In terms of negotiations, there is a trend for co-operative organizations to be involved mainly in joint
actions with other social partners. To this effect, they are vested with a negotiating mandate referring
to legal and policy matters at sectoral level; this mandate is often specific, depending on the issues at
stake. A social dialogue at regional level on policy issues exists as well, but not on wages and working
conditions. In the devolved administrations (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) there is also a
dialogue on legal matters.



At sectoral level, the European social dialogue underwent a major change in 1998. In its
Communication “Adapting and promoting the social dialogue at Community level”, the Commission
created the conditions for a reorganized sectoral social dialogue defining precise provisions concerning
the establishment, representativeness and operation of new sectoral committees.

Sectoral social dialogue committees are created in order to foster dialogue between the social
partners at European level. Their organizations jointly submit to the European Commission a request
to participate in social dialogue at European level. European organizations representing employers and
employees must belong to specific sectors or categories and be organized at European level; consist
of organizations which are themselves recognized as an integral part of the social-partner structures in
the Member States, have the authority to negotiate agreements and be, wherever possible,
representative in all Member States and have appropriate structures enabling them to participate
effectively in the consultation process.

Sectoral social dialogue committees consist of a maximum of 50 social-partner representatives, with

an equal number of representatives of both employers and employees. They are chaired either by one
of the social-partner representatives or, at their request, by the representative of the Commission,
which in all cases provides the secretariat for the committees.

Each committee adopts its own rules of procedure and work program. It holds at least one plenary
meeting per year. More specific questions are dealt with in working groups. Representativeness is
obviously essential for the legitimacy of the social dialogue. For that reason, whenever an application
to establish a committee is put forward, the Commission sends the social-partner organizations
concerned a questionnaire to enable them evaluate the extent to which they meet the criteria for
establishment, such as the authority to negotiate agreements or the representativeness which
determines the relevance of the social dialogue. The representativeness requirement will vary
depending on the nature of activities. For example, it will be stricter in the case of a negotiated
agreement than for simple consultation.

In the context of implementation of the Lisbon Strategy, the Commission stressed the importance of
promoting the European Social Dialogue. Therefore the Commission decided to monitor and update
the study on the representativeness of the social partners at European level; to review with the social
partners the operation of the social dialogue structures (at both cross-industry and sectoral levels).

Cf. http://www.ec.europa.eu/employment_social/social_dialogue/sectoral_eu.htm and websites of the European sectoral co-
operative organizations

The Commission's further Communication adopted in 2002, entitled “The European social dialogue, a
force for modernization and change”21 in order to improve existing structures and foster more
effective dialogue so as to guarantee better governance at Union level.

In all the proposed measures, the Commission stresses that the sectoral dialogue is "the proper level
for discussion on many issues linked to employment, working conditions, vocational training, industrial
change, the knowledge society, demographic patterns, enlargement and globalization". Therefore the
Commission wants to pursue the setting up new committees and encourage the necessary groupings
and co-operation between sectors.

Since the committees were established, the sectoral social dialogue has given rise to some 350
commitments of different types and scales: opinions and common positions, declarations, guidelines
and codes of conduct, charters, agreements, etc. Some of these initiatives, such as the agreements
concluded in the transport sector, have led to Community Directives. Other texts - declarations or
common opinions - have been adopted in order to clarify the position of the social partners on themes
directly linked to the future of their sector. Many measures also deal with major themes of common
interest shared by several sectors.

In its last Communication “Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue in an enlarged
Europe”, the Commission encourages the social partners in different sectors and at European, national
and company levels, to continue to enhance the synergies between the various sectors.

COM(2002) 341 final


Established in 1978, ACME, the Association of European Co-operative and Mutual Insurers is the
European regional association of the International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation
(ICMIF). ACME is a key partner of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council
of Ministers, as well as the Committee of European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Supervisors
(CEIOPS). ACME has been granted an observer status in EFRAG, and benefits from ICMIF’s observer
status in the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) and at the OECD. ACME
maintains close relations with all relevant EU trade associations and interest groups.

Representativeness, figures, capacity

ACME represents and promotes the common interests of European co-operative and mutual insurers by
promoting their views towards the European Union institutions and related EU organizations and
supervisors. ACME is the only EU trade association which effectively monitors policy and regulatory
developments affecting mutual and co-operative insurance societies.

ACME has 57 members in 19 EU countries, which own over 120 subsidiary companies, underwrite 120
million insurance policies, and employ over 140,000 people in Europe.

ACME advocates and lobbies EU regulatory and policy-makers, as well as leveraging the collective
influence of its fifty-two members in the process. To achieve its goals, ACME regularly participates in
meetings, conferences and events - organized by the European Commission, the European Parliament,
the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of European Insurance and
Occupational Pensions Supervisors (CEIOPS) -, and advises them on all questions of interest to co-
operative and mutual insurers. Through its observer status in the EFRAG, OECD, and IAIS (through
ICMIF), it ensures that the co-operative and mutual insurance perspective is heard and better
understood. Over the past two years, ACME has been particularly active to represent the interests of its
members in the EU Solvency II project, which aims to build a more efficient EU insurance capital
requirement framework by 2007. ACME also actively lobbies for the adoption of a European mutual
society statute. This should enable mutual insurance societies to benefit from a level playing-field with
joint-stock and co-operative companies, and support both their national and international growth and
development in the Solvency II context. The International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) is
currently working on two International Financial Accounting Standards affecting business
combinations (IFRS3) and insurance contracts (IFRS 4) which will significantly affect insurance
companies worldwide. An ICMIF working group is being set up to take positions and lobby on published

The European Sector Social Dialogue in the Insurance sector

In 2004, 1.2 million people worked in the insurance sector in the EU-25. 86% of the insurance
workers have an employee status and full-time work predominates (86%). Women account for just
over half of the total employed (51.3%). 32% of the workforce has a high education level. Since1987
an informal working party had been in place and the sectoral dialogue committee was established in
1999 when the internal rules of procedure were adopted.

UNI-Europa is the representative organization of workers in this sector dialogue. It is part of Union
Network International (UNI) which represents around 1000 trade unions in 140 countries. It is
responsible for social dialogue with the corresponding employers’ organizations in numerous areas of
activity in the service sector, including the finance sector, for which it has a specific section. The
Employers’ representatives are the European Federation of National Insurance Associations (CEA) is a
federation of national associations of insurance companies composed of associations or employers
organizations with one member from each country. It has members in each country of the EU-25, in
the 4 candidate countries and those of EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway). More
than 5 000 European insurance and reinsurance companies are represented by CEA and they employ
more than 1 million people.

The Association of European Co-operative and Mutual Insurers - ACME is made up of mutual and co-
operative insurances. It is the European regional organization of International Co-operative and
Mutual Insurance Federation – ICMIF. ACME has members in the Member States, except in the Baltic
States, Cyprus, Malta, Hungary and Slovenia and also in Bulgaria, Iceland, the Russian Federation and

The European Federation of Insurance Intermediaries (BIPAR) consists of some 48 national

associations of professional insurance agents and brokers from all Member States except Cyprus,
Latvia and the UK. BIPAR also has members in Israel, Lebanon, Norway, Romania, the Russian
Federation, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine. BIPAR represents about 100 000 self employed and
corporate professional insurance intermediaries employing more than 150 000 people and is a
member of the World Federation of Insurance Intermediaries (WFII). Since the creation of the
insurance committee, the social partners have worked on issues dealing with enlargement, vocational
training, qualifications and access to the profession for insurance intermediaries as well as work
organization (working time, since 2002, the key item has been vocational training. A joint survey on
supply and demand for training in EU countries (and Norway) was launched in 2003, the statements
and reflections of which have been approved by the insurance social partners. However a joint text on
this issue has not yet been concluded.

Participation of ACME in the European Social Dialogue

ACME is member of the European Sector Social Dialogue on Insurance since its creation in 1999. ACME
represents the Employers alongside with CEA and BIPAR. The representativeness of ACME has never
been questioned by the Commission.

Like any other Committee, the social dialogue in the insurance sector functioned on the basis of the
adoption of a regulation and a work program. In 2003, one of the working program’s themes was the
Life-long Learning, with the objective to elaborate a common directive on the professional training
while including the notion of social responsibility.

When this common directive should have been finalised, a problem emerged between the social
partners concerning the financing of the training: the trade unions wanted to implement this training
during the working hours with the employer paying for it, but the employers were opposed to this
proposal. After this disagreement, the social partners were not able to build up a common program for
the following year and an agreement on the declaration was not signed.

It was only in 2006 that the CEA and UNI EUROPA met again to restart negotiations, although on a
smaller scale. Meanwhile, the agreement has been signed by UNI EUROPA, and been validated by the
Commission; during this period, ACME and BIPAR have been informed over the steps being taken.

The work of the committee has also restarted and the social partners have presented a project to the
Commission on the integration of the social partners of the new member states. Slovakia, the Czech
Republic and Hungary have been selected for this pilot project.

ACME, as an organization representing actors of the social economy, doesn’t always share in general
completely the view of the employers’ organizations but its position as an employer’s organization
doesn’t allow it to really underline its differentiated position.


CECOP is a European non profit association with its headquarter in Brussels representing producers’
and workers cooperatives and social cooperatives, as well as other types of worker-controlled
enterprises. Most of those enterprises are in industry and services, including social services. Its
geographical scope is Europe in the wider definition given by the Strasburg-based Council of Europe.

CECOP’s members include 29 national federations of co-operative and participative enterprises

representing around 60.000 enterprises, 900.000 members, employing 1,3 million workers, and 7
organizations promoting this type of enterprise. CECOP is the regional organization of CICOPA
(International Organization of Industrial, Artisanal and Service Producers’ Cooperatives, a sectoral
organization of the International Cooperative Alliance) for Europe. It is also a sectoral organization of
Cooperatives Europe.

CECOP’s core objectives are the representation of the interests of producers’ and workers’
cooperatives, social cooperatives, and other types of worker-controlled enterprises towards the
European Union institutions, the promotion of the economic and social development of those types of
enterprises across Europe, the creation of partnerships and networks, and the transfer of information
and know-how.

CECOP works in close contact with the EU institutions and in particular with the DG Enterprise of the
European Commission, the Intergroup for the Social Economy of the European Parliament and the
European Social and Economic Committee. CECOP is also working with the European Confederation of
Trade Unions (ETUC) on the topic of workers’ participation in enterprises characterized by worker

Representativeness, figures and capacity

CECOP has member federations in 19 countries out of the EU-27. It represents over 60.000 co-
operatives and worker owned enterprises, mainly in Industry, Building, and Services. CECOP
represents also social service and social integration co-operatives. If in sectors like the Industry and
Services to enterprises, the represented co-operatives are a small part of the general Industry and
Service Sector, in the Building sector as also in the area of Social services, CECOP’s contribution to the
concerned EU sectors is not marginal at all.

CECOP represents mainly SME, and for a long time has been recognized as a European SME BRO and
consulted along side UEAPME and Business Europe by the Commission, DG ENTR. Therefore CECOP
has developed a permanent watch capacity on all EU issues of concern and organizes regular
consultation of its members on SME’s, enterprise policy, labour policy and European social policy.

The European Sectoral Dialogue
As a representative organization for co-operatives in the industry and service sectors, CECOP is in a
position to participate in several European sectoral dialogues. At the same time the fact that the
majority of its enterprises are SME’s it looks to enhancing its relationship with UEAPME. On the other
hand, as the representative organization that is characterized by the majority by worker owned
enterprises (the situation of a worker-member in a cooperative), CECOP has started a process of
direct relationship with the ETUC based on this specific type of labour relation. Thus for several years
CECOP has been engaged in talks on worker ownership with ETUC, on the basis of the World
Declaration on Worker Cooperatives Ownership (approved by the general assembly of the
International Cooperative Alliance in 2005) . In the SPP survey, CECOP’s member organizations
consider the European social dialogue as important or very important.

National participation in the Social Dialogue

The national sectoral social dialogue is considered by CECOP’s members as very important. 13 out of
the 17 member federations are directly involved in the national sectoral dialogue, whereas 2 more
participate indirectly through their national APEX organization. 9 organizations participate regularly or
very regularly in the national Social dialogue. 10 organizations negotiate wages and working
conditions, 9 are involved in Economic and Social policy issues. 12 of CECOP’s member organizations
have a negotiation mandate.

Some major worker co-operative organizations active within the social dialogue can be found for
example in Spain and Italy. In Italy, five sectoral organizations participate in the negotiations through
their intersectoral co-operative organization, while the COCETA in Spain has no direct presence, but is
an active participant in the consultation process through a regular dialogue with the Ministry of
Labour, political parties and parliamentary representatives. Further, in countries like Denmark,
Sweden or the Czech Republic, the co-operative organizations representing worker co-operatives are
directly involved within the social dialogue, and participate on a regular basis on the conclusion of
collective bargaining agreements.

As a European worker owned business representative organization, CECOP will continue its specific
relationship with the ETUC. Nevertheless, in sectors like construction or social services, CECOP will
analyze the opportunity of its future participation in the particular European Sectoral Social Dialogue.


COGECA, the General Confederation of Agricultural Co-operatives in the European Union, was created
on 24 September 1959. COGECA is the officially recognized representative body of all agricultural and
fishery co-operatives in the EU with 40 member organizations from the EU(27) it is recognized by the
European Union institutions as the main representative body and voice of the entire agri-food co-
operative sector.

Besides the important function of representing political interests vis-à-vis the Community authorities,
COGECA activities aim at promoting relations between co-operatives across borders. Diverse activities
have been undertaken in the past in order to offer an intensive exchange of information, experience
and opinions to the co-operative business representatives.

Representativeness, figures, capacity

COGECA represents the general and specific interests of all agricultural and fishery co-operatives vis-à-
vis the Community authorities: European Commission, Council of Ministers, European Parliament,
Economic and Social Committee, Committee of the Regions. COGECA takes part in the preparation and
development of all Community policies, which set out the framework for co-operatives which are an
integral part of the multifunctional European Model of Agriculture and play an increasing role for the
farm income from the market. COGECA’s lobbying work is carried out together with COPA, the
Committee of Professional Agriculture Organizations, in over 50 - mostly joint - working groups and in
approximately 300 meetings per year. This is made possible by a joint Secretariat, where nearly 50
people of different nationalities are employed. Co-operation with the experts and competent people
from the national member organizations of the 27 EU Member States is possible with the utilization of
5 working languages: French, English, German, Italian and Spanish.

The importance of agricultural co-operatives for agriculture, the supply area and the food industry of
the EU is illustrated by following figures: There are about 40 000 co-operative enterprises employing
over 600 000 persons; with 9 million members. The turnover of the European co-operatives is around
€260 billion. These co-operatives represent over 50% of the shares of the supply of agricultural inputs
and over 60% of shares of the collection, processing and marketing of agricultural products

Agriculture, the importance of the sector

In the EU more than 9 million people work in agriculture. The majority of them are self-employed
(56%) or family workers (16.5%), whilst 27.5% have employee status with full-time work dominating
(80.5%). Women make up 36% of the total agriculture workforce and account for 31% of working
time. 93.4% of the workforce has a low or intermediate education level. The majority of enterprises
are small-scale. The agricultural sector accounts for 14.2% of total EU manufacturing output, with
€675 billion worth of production. 38.5% of this output is generated by the co-operative sector. The
2004 enlargement meant an increase of 30% of agricultural land, while production expanded by about
15% for most products. In order to be more market-oriented and more sustainable, the CAP
(Common Agricultural Policy) has been in a process of ongoing reform since the early 1990s. This has
focused mainly on increasing the competitiveness of agriculture by reducing support prices and
compensating farmers through the introduction of direct aid payments. Trade liberalisation discussions

As COGECA joined membership of COOPERATIVES EUROPE only the 15 June 2007, COGECA was not a partner in the SPP project.

in the framework of the WTO's Doha Development Agenda have had a direct impact on this sector and
further restructuring is expected, including a reduction in aid and an opening up of world markets.

The European Social dialogue in the Agricultural Sector

The social partners in agriculture played a pioneering role in the development of sectoral social
dialogue; the first joint commission was set up in 1974. The agriculture sectoral social dialogue
committee was created in 1999 when the rules of procedures were adopted.

The workers in the food and agriculture sector are represented by the European Federation of Food,
Agriculture and Tourism Workers (EFFAT) representing 128 national trade unions from 37 European
countries and having more than 2.600.000 members. EFFAT is a member of the European Trade Union
Confederation, (ETUC).

Agriculture Employers ’are organized in GEOPA, Employers Group of the Professional Agricultural
Organizations in the European Union 53 organizations coming from COPA and COGECA. In the domain of
organization of working time, three agreements were signed in 1978, 1980 and 1997. The 1997
agreement supplements the 1993 Directive on this issue, and recommends affiliates to conclude
collective agreements laying down a maximum annual working time of 1 827 hours or fewer. In 2000,
EFFAT and GEOPA-COPA adopted a White Paper on vocational training. In 2002, the social partners
signed a European agreement on training in agriculture. In addition, the social partners are currently
discussing a training model for drivers of agricultural vehicles, as well as the possibilities of setting up
an observatory of vocational hazards in the sector, and the organization of a European Year for
accident prevention. They are also looking at seasonal work and the shadow economy.

The social partners have held several conferences since 2000 focussing on restructuring and the
development of the social dialogue following enlargement, the last one was held in Budapest from 28
to 30 September 2007. EFFAT and GEOPA-COPA adopted a joint declaration in 2004 on how to reduce
work accidents and occupational diseases. In particular, two lines of action were proposed, related to
the collection of statistics and the development and dissemination of measures at national level.
Further action was taken in 2005 with a view to reaching agreement on guidelines for a prevention
policy in relation to musculo-skeletal disorders.

The participation of COGECA in the European Sector Social Dialogue

There is no direct and specific participation of COGECA in the European Sector dialogue. The member
organizations of COGECA follow the agreements reached by their common Employer organization
GEOPA which has the negotiation mandate of all professional Agriculture organizations.

The participation of Agriculture co-operative organization in the National

Social dialogue
In some countries the agricultural sectoral organizations are specifically active within the social
dialogue. This is the case for example in Austria – where the “ÖSTERREICHISCHER RAIFEISENVERBAND”
participates directly in the negotiations – or in Greece, where the PASEGES plays a major role in the
national sectoral social dialogue. Other examples are Ireland, with ICOS being one of the four
organizations part of the farming pillar – the latter being a recognized social partner – the CONFAGRI in
Portugal, being vested with a negotiation mandate, as have the SALA in Denmark.


Founded in 1970, the European Association of Co-operative Banks (EACB) is one of the main
representative bodies in the European Credit Industry. The Association represents, promotes and
defends the common interests of its Members and the co-operative banks in general. As such the
EACB is their official spokesman towards the European institutions. To this end, this Association tasks
primary involve: informing member organizations of all the initiatives and measures of the European
Union relevant to the Banking sector, co-ordinating members’ positions regarding problems of
common interest as well as providing a platform for the exchange of their experiences and points of
view, lobbying European instances actively and elaborating and presenting position papers regarding
problems of common interest.

The EACB is also responsible for strengthening the co-operation between European co-operative
banking groups and promoting and developing the co-operative idea in the banking sector and
in interaction with other co-operatively constituted organizations more generally. The Association
comprises full members and associate members defined as follows: Full Membership shall be open to
national associations and Central credit institutions from Members States of the European Union in
which co-operative banks are grouped or which are linked to co-operatives. Associate membership
shall be open to national association Central credit institutes in which co-operative banks are grouped
or which are linked to co-operatives from European States which are not members of the European

The European Association of Co-operative Banks fosters co-operation between co-operative banking
groups. Furthermore, with the other representative co-operative organizations, the Association
promotes the spirit of co-operation throughout the banking sector and beyond. In order to fulfil such
goals, the Association is one of the founding members of the European Banking Industry Committee
(EBIC), the European Payments Council (EPC), the European Committee for Banking Standards (ECBS)
and the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG). The Association also maintains close
contacts with UNICO and the International Confederation of Popular Banks (Confédération
Internationale des Banques Populaires: CIBP). It is a founding member of COOPERATIVES EUROPE. The
Association maintains close links with the International Raffeisen Union (IRU), the Confédération
Internationale du Crédit Agricole (CICA) and the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).

Co-operative banks are infused with those values that make them efficient and innovative enterprises
whilst ensuring sustainable development. They are the essential link between market, small
enterprises, and citizens. Through their widespread presence in national territories, they are the
driving forces and actors of regional and local development.

Representativeness, figures and capacity

Co-operative banks form a decentralised network which is governed by banking as well as co-
operative legislation. They are widely represented throughout the enlarged European Union. As
universal banks, co-operative banks meet the needs of 60 million members (both customers and co-
owners) and 140 million clients with a wide range of financial products and services.

Through their co-operative specificities, they also act as the driving forces of sustainable and
responsible development by placing the individual at the heart of their activities and organization. At
the beginning of the 21st century, co-operative banks as a whole represent one of the major players in
the European banking sector. With their 4.500 banks and 60.000 branches, co-operative banks are

major actors of local development and range among major employers with more than 720.000
employees. The territorial presence of co-operative banks does naturally vary from one Member State
to the next and this is due to historical factors or to legislation in force. Generally speaking, co-
operative banks are fully-fledged banks that play a major role in the collection of savings which are in
turn recycled in the form of loans to private customers or small and medium sized enterprises.
However, with the opening of financial markets, the emergence of new actors and the changes in the
regulatory framework, co-operative banks have had to expand their activities and develop new ones.

In seeking such diversification, co-operative banks have gone into new areas such as bank insurance
and have even played a pioneering role in this particular field. Co-operative banks are a beacon of
stability in a rapidly changing environment. The principles established over a century ago of good
governance based on democracy and permanent direct control by the members of management and
strategy of the enterprise are a fundamental point of reference and a definite asset. Co-operative
banks have succeeded in perpetuating the ideas and actions of Raiffeisen and Schulze-Delitzsch: they
have become efficient and profitable enterprises serving their members, meeting their needs in
placing the quality of service to their members and customers at the heart of their objectives whilst
remaining true to their founding principles.

European Sector Dialogue in the Banking Sector

The social partners have been engaged in a social dialogue since 1990 within an informal working
party. The sectoral social dialogue committee was set up in 1999.

On the Employers’ side there were the Banking Federation of the European Union (FBE), the European
Association of Co-operative Banks (EACB) and the European Savings Banks Group (ESBG); Employees
were represented through UNI–EUROPA FINANCE.

In Europe, the banking sector comprises commercial banks, co-operative banks, savings banks and
other credit institutions, with the exception of insurance and pension funds. Some 5.3 million people
were working in financial services in 2000, accounting for 3.5 % of all jobs in the European Union. Of
those, 65 % were in the banking sector and 22 % in the insurance sector. Out of the 3.6 million
people working in the banking institutions, 720.000 (22.5%) are working in co-operatives. Financial
services have become considerably globalised, owing to deregulation and the revolution in technical
communications. The most important change has been the creation of a single market and above all
the introduction of the Euro in 1999.

The social partners signed a joint declaration on lifelong learning in the banking sector in November
2002, with the aim of promoting a culture of continuing training. Persuaded that this theme is the key
to improving the competitiveness of companies and employability, they see in this declaration a
means of improving the skills and qualifications of the workforce and also a success for the sectoral
social dialogue.

The partners have tackled a number of themes, particularly mergers and acquisitions, competition
from ‘non-banks’, the privatisation of the sector, training, the consequences of the introduction of the
Euro, and the enlargement of the Union.

In May 2005, the social partners adopted a joint statement on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The statement reiterated the commitments on lifelong learning and highlighted good practice to
facilitate work – life balance, such as flexible retirement, sabbatical leave, part-time work, parental
leave facilities and telework. Organizations were also encouraged to improve internal communications
with staff and promote policies of diversity and equality. The importance of core labour standards in
relation to areas such as job security, discipline and grievance handling were emphasised and
members were encouraged to consult with representative organizations and agreed procedures.

The Participation of EACB in the European Sector Dialogue
The European Association of Co-operative Banks (EACB) is one of the main associations of the
European credit industry. Its core objective lies in defending the professional interests of its members.
The EACB is involved in the European Social Dialogue Committee for the banking sector since its
creation in 1998.

The association represents one of the leading banking groups in Europe. Its membership base of more
than 30 organizations comprises co-operative banking groups from the European Union Member
States, but also from Central and Eastern European countries. These represent 44 million Members,
over 126 million customers, over 700.000 employees in more than 60.000 business points and
deposits of about EUR 1,209,000 million.

The activities of the EACB’s members are mainly focused on their respective national or regional
markets. Even where they are identified as having an international dimension, they are nonetheless
groups that are composed of medium-sized or small-scale institutions. Co-operative banks are among
the leading providers of capital to small businesses and private customers in Europe.

Participation in the National Social Dialogue

The national co-operative banking organizations are in general very active within the national social
dialogue. For example the German and Austrian Raiffeisenbanken, which participate directly within the
sectoral negotiations, and which are both vested with a negotiating mandate. The Rabobank in
Netherland has a mandate to negotiate about their own Rabobank Collective Labour Agreement,
which is then applicable to all the member banks.

In France, three main co-operative organizations (Banques Populaires, Crédit Mutuel and Crédit
Agricole) participate on a highly regular basis within the negotiations, all of them being also directly
represented. Other examples would be ILCU in Ireland, the Lithuanian credit Union, the FENACAM in
Portugal or the Italian co-operative banks which participate through their intersectoral organizations.

The EACB would like to take this opportunity to re-emphasise its full support and commitment to the
sectoral European Social Dialogue. Since the creation of the European Social Dialogue Committee for
the Banking Sector in 1998, the EACB has participated in the constructive dialogue between the
banking social partners who have initiated work on issues of common interest, such as non-bank
competition, IT employability, round tables in the accession countries, Life-Long Learning and the
social affairs aspects of Corporate Social Responsibility.

The EACB wishes to continue working in such a constructive dialogue based on mutual respect and
understanding of both parties. It is not the purpose of the European Social Dialogue, whose
characteristics are based on compromises and do not allow to share out high level mandatory
provisions with all countries and all companies, to come to agreements. Indeed, none of the social
partners present in the Committee have any mandate to reach European-wide agreements.

The EACB has strong reservations that the Social Dialogue organization deviates from the well
established principles of: the autonomy of the Social Partners ( i.e. they remain self-governing and
responsible for the organization of the social dialogue), the issues covered and the results achieved
within the framework of the EC Treaty, the principle of subsidiarity (i.e. interaction of industrial
relations, whether originating’ at EU or national level), is complementary and may differ depending on
the issue tackled.


Created in 1957, EURO COOP is the European community of consumer cooperatives. Its secretariat is
based in Brussels. Its members are the national organizations of consumer cooperatives in 16
European countries. It is the European Sector organization member of Cooperatives Europe in the
sector of Commerce.
Consumer co-operatives are organizations that belong to the members, consumers, who influence and
control co-operatives’ activities at every level. The aim of a co-operative is not solely to make a profit,
but to be of use to its members and defend their interests. Consumer co-operatives were the first
consumer organizations aiming to defend and promote consumers' interests, and in many countries
they contributed to the creation of consumer associations, as it was recently the case in Sweden.

At the European level, EURO COOP’s first purpose is to represent its members and to defend and
promote consumers' interests. Its priorities are laid down by the members, consumer co-operatives’
national organizations EURO COOP’s positions are drafted in close collaboration with the experts
employed by EURO COOP’s member co-operatives in order to implement the actions and policies
defined by consumers. These positions closely reflect consumers’ expectations and concerns,
expressed by the co-operatives’ members or by the customers in shops.

Representativeness, figures and Consultation Capacity

EURO COOP today represents over 3.200 local and regional co-operatives, counting for more than
60.000 sales points across Europe; these sales points range from the local shop (often, the last
remaining store for the community in certain remote regions of Europe) to hypermarkets in urban
shopping areas. The number of members amounts to more than 22 million consumers across Europe.
In the same sector of commerce also exist wholesale co-operatives, which are not directly members of
EURO COOP although some of them are indirectly members through their national APEX organizations.

As a European consumer organization, EURO COOP sits on various consultative committees in the
European Commission, including the European Consumer Consultative Group, where it promotes its
positions. EURO COOP is also active in consumer representation in the agricultural consultative
committees and veterinary advisory committee in the European Commission. EURO COOP participates in
consultations with the European Commission through meetings between EU officials and EURO COOP
experts, providing information and replying to questionnaires from the European institutions and the
organization participates in the institutions’ initiatives and actions and delivers informal comments on
projects and work themes the European institutions are proposing.

On priority issues identified by members, EURO COOP prepares position papers or comments, approved
and endorsed by the members, which are then widely circulated at EU level. Recent positions include
comments on the EU food legislation, the use of antibiotics in animal feed, the EU eco-label scheme,
etc. Working groups made up of experts from the member organizations and co-ordinated by the
EURO COOP secretariat have been set up. There are currently three working groups: on food policy,
environment policy, and Cooperative Enterprises policy, which meet 3 to 4 times a year. EURO COOP
promotes its positions through its relations with the European Commission (particularly DG SanCo
consumer policy, DG Enterprise SME’s and social economy, DG Agriculture, the European Parliament
(rapporteurs on the subjects, the consumer intergroup, social economy intergroup, UK Co-operative
European Parliamentary Group, etc.) and the European Economic and Social Committee (Group III
representing various interests).

The European Sector Dialogue for Commerce
The social dialogue in the sector dates back to 1985. In 1993, Eurocommerce and Euro-Fiet
recognized each other as partners in the social dialogue. The sectoral social dialogue committee was
set up in 1999. Today there are only 2 sector organizations in that dialogue: Eurocommerce as the
European Employers’ representative, and UNI-Europa Commerce as the European Workers’
representative organization. The European Consumer and Wholesale Co-operatives are not directly
participating in this dialogue.

Around 23,5 million people are employed in the sector, or nearly 15 % of all European employment.
The proportion of self-employed workers is significant in certain Member States, while part-time work
prevails in others. The sector has five million undertakings, or one third of all European undertakings,
a large number of which are SMEs. However, there have been significant mergers in recent years at
European level. The co-operative Consumer and wholesale sector represents 2 -5 % of the European
sector on average. In some countries, like Finland, Italy, Sweden, the UK, Slovakia, the co-operatives
have a market share between 10 to 40%.

Commerce has the particular characteristic of being conducted in a local context close to the
consumer while being faced with the international dimension of the markets for products and services
and with technological changes (electronic commerce or communication and information
technologies). These developments have a considerable impact on employment in all branches and
the quality of employment in the sector.

Up to now, the social partners have already signed a number of important agreements such as the
agreement on voluntary guidelines on age diversity of 11 March 2002. The social partners had
previously signed the declaration against racism (1997), the agreement on fundamental social rights
(1999) and an agreement on guidelines for teleworking (2001).

The challenges facing the sector directly influence the social dialogue. Apart from the agreements
referred to, the social dialogue committee is working on developing employment and working
conditions, enlargement, corporate social responsibility, training in electronic commerce and social

Participation of Euro Coop in the European Social Dialogue

EURO COOP is not partner in the European Sector dialogue of Commerce, even if the European
Commission recognizes EURO COOP as European Representative organization in the sector. As such,
EURO COOP is regularly consulted on sector issues such as consumer protection, food policy and
environment. EURO COOP’s members consider the participation in the European Social dialogue as

Participation of Euro Coop members in the National Social Dialogue

Participation in the national Social dialogue is considered by 12 out of the 16 member organizations as
essential or very important. 6 out of 16 organizations are directly involved in their national sector
dialogue, whereas 7 are indirectly involved. 3 organizations are in both levels. Only 2 organizations
are not at all participating in the national social dialogue. 8 of the 16 member organization do
participate regularly in the Social dialogue, 2 on an occasional basis. 7 federations are part of the
negotiation on wages and working conditions, 9 are in the dialogue on Economic and Social policy. 6
organizations out of the 16 organizations have a mandate for negotiation.

The case of Slovakia can be underlined, where the co-operative organizations were one of the main
promoters of the national social dialogue, and especially the consumer co-operative organizations.
These co-operatives, represented by the CJS, have nowadays direct access to negotiations through
the Trade Union of the Commerce and Tourism Employees, at sectoral level as well as partially at
intersectoral level. Further, the strong consumer co-operative organizations KF in Sweden, SCMSD in
the Czech Republic and Hispacoop in Spain participate mainly through the intersectoral co-operative

organizations, while the smaller CCU in Bulgaria and the Cypriot ESEL have a direct access to the
sectoral dialogue they are part of.

Eurocommerce is not very keen to open the European Sector dialogue to other European
organizations. It is therefore essential to show the qualitative and quantitative importance of
consumer and wholesale co-operatives in the sector and study the capacity to add value to the
European sector dialogue on commerce.


COOPERATIVES EUROPE HOUSING is the co-operative section of CECODHAS. The European Liaison
Committee for Social Housing CECODHAS, established in 1988, is the European network for the
promotion of the right to decent housing for all.

CECODHAS is working to reinforce the European social model and promotes the values, successes and
the vital future role of social housing within that model. It promotes the integrated approaches to
sustainable urban development, stressing that the work of social housing providers is the backbone of
social cohesion in European cities; and to protect fundamental rights and fight for quality social
services, accessible to all.

Representativeness, figures and capacity

CECODHAS is the European representative organization of Social housing service. CECODHAS is based
and articulated on three sections, namely the public, voluntary and co-operative sections, which
regroup members according to their statutes. Within the CECODHAS membership are 46 regional and
national federations, which represent together over 39.000 public, voluntary and co-operative social
housing enterprises in 19 countries. They provide over 21 million homes across the European Union.
COOPERATIVES EUROPE HOUSING, the co-operative section of CECODHAS, represents 15.140 enterprises,
with 5,6 million members and 38 thousand jobs.

As member organization, CECODHAS represents and negotiates for strategic common interests on
issues such as Structural Funds, Services of General Interest, State Aid, Public Procurement, Social
inclusion, Energy efficiency and Urban sustainable development. Therefore CECODHAS maintains
continuous dialogue with the European Ministers responsible for housing, the European institutions,
the European Parliament – in particular the ‘Urban-Housing’ intergroup – and social partners.

CECODHAS is regularly consulted by the European Institutions on issues like social inclusion, social
services and local and regional development. Policy formulation is carried out in Working Groups made
up of member representatives and experts. Groups are divided by theme: Urban affairs, Social Policies
and Internal market. CECODHAS is building up data, knowledge and informed debate on Social Housing
through its European Social Housing Observatory.

European Sector Dialogue

Although half of COOPERATIVES EUROPE HOUSING federations consider the participation in the European
Sector dialogue as important, CECODHAS is not part of any European Sector Dialogue.

Participation in the National Social Dialogue
Only the Co-operative section of CECODHAS participated in the surveys of the SPP program. Therefore
the results are only linked to the 10 co-operative member organization of COOPERATIVES EUROPE

The majority of the organizations consider the Social dialogue at national level as important or very
important. 5 out of the 10 organizations are participating directly in the national Social dialogue; the
other 5 are taking part in the national dialogue indirectly through their Apex organization. For 5 of
them they participate regularly in the national dialogue, 3 only occasionally. The majority is involved in
discussions on Economic and Social policy, only one on wage and working conditions. 3 of the
COOPERATIVES EUROPE HOUSING organization have a mandate for negotiation.

In future there might be the possibility for CECODHAS together with CECOP and CEEP to join a sector
dialogue on Social Services.


Social pharmacies are present in 9 countries of the European Union. Due to various legal obstacles,
social pharmacies are prevented from operating in several members states. Social pharmacies are set
up by and for users to guarantee the most cost effective accessibility of medicines but also to promote
the interest of patients in the health sector and particularly in the delivery of medicines.

Representativeness, figures, capacity

The social pharmacies are represented at the European level by the European Union of the Social
Pharmacies (EUPS). EUPS unites 9 organizations of social pharmacies that have different legal bases,
mainly mutual societies or co-operatives. They represent around 2.500 pharmacies.

These members are at different stages of development in Europe. This is mainly due to the legal
impediments that still exist in some countries. Social pharmacies are also facing another question
which is the liberalization of the selling of pharmaceutical products. The problem is complex and
concerns a balance between the general interest and the European competition policy within the
health care sector that can only be approached on its business impact. Social pharmacies want to
preserve their specific input in the sector and EUPS is supporting this through its participation in
different working groups and having a permanent contact with the relevant European organizations
and institutions.

EUPS undertook and published several studies and position papers on the pharmacy sector, examples
include the recommendation for the “Patient medications report” or the development of standards for
good practice in pharmacy or “Commitments for pharmaceutical quality”.

European Sector Dialogue

EUPS doesn’t take part in any European Sector Dialogue but recognises its importance.


For EUPS there might be the opportunity to join the sector dialogue on social services.


In this 4th chapter, we will examine and represent the outcomes of the questionnaires and the
different national- and sector sheets in maps and tables, in order to provide an easily readable
overview over the representativeness of COOPERATIVES EUROPE and the ‘place’ of co-operative
organizations within the Social Dialogue.

Further, we would like to recall that the survey has been undertaken only within the former 25
European Union countries, as the project started in 2006. Nevertheless, we have tried to include the
figures for Bulgaria and Romania as far as possible within this chapter.

4.1 Co-operative specificity

From the country sheets it appeared that the legal framework in the different EU countries makes
almost everywhere the specificities of the co-operatives very visible, and easily allows the
differentiation of co-operatives from other businesses (like public companies, for profit private

If we have a look at the existence of a specific legal statute present or not in the European Union, the
following map results:

It appears that there are only two countries, where no legal statute exists, namely Ireland and
Denmark. In Ireland, only the Credit Union Movement has specific legislation dedicated to the
formation of member owned lending and saving businesses which are wholly co-operative in
character, whereas in Denmark, there is no legislation at all for co-operative enterprises and they
generally follow the regulations within the company legislation.23 All the other European countries
underline the co-operative specificity with a specific legal statute.

Concerning the areas of a specific taxation, specific aids or grants and specific representative body,
the following table can be drown, indicating the percentage of countries that gave a positive answer
Specific taxation 28%
Specific aids, grants 12%
Specific representative bodies 56%

Concerning these specific legal characteristics, the following can be extrapolated:

Out of 25 Member States, 23 have a specific legal statute for co-operatives. In 7 Member States, co-
operatives are subject to a specific taxation regime, which is mostly related to one specific sector or a
specific activity. Further, only 3 countries are eligible for specific aids or grants, and 14 countries have
a specific representative body.

As a first trend, it could be assumed that most co-operatives operate in a structure which is
characterised by a specific legal form but generally without special support from the public authorities.

Cf. the country sheets about Ireland and Denmark.

4.2 Representativeness

In this section, we will give an overview of the figures provided by our partners.

The following table contains the figures24 about the 141 direct member organizations of COOPERATIVES
EUROPE and its 6 European Sector Member Organizations in the EU 27 (i.e. includes Bulgaria and
Romania). It gives a picture of the number of co-operative enterprises (separate legal entities),
members and employees of these organizations. Out of these 141 organizations, there are 19 inter-
sectoral organizations – marked with a star (*) – belonging to 15 different countries.

As the majority of the organizations are representative organization for co-operatives, the data
presented refers to the aggregated total number of individual co-operators, enterprises and
employees that this organization represents.

Around 30% of the direct individual national sectoral member organizations of COOPERATIVES EUROPE
belong also to an inter-sectoral organization; the inter-sectoral organizations concerned are all
members of COOPERATIVES EUROPE. The figures of the sectoral organizations being part of an
intersectoral organization are listed, but not double counted; they are subtracted for the calculations
of the totals by country.

Please note that the figures not being available for 2006 are in italics, and are taken from the Performance Report 2005,
published at the Regional Assembly of Cooperatives Europe in Manchester (Nov 2006).

Cross-sector Organization: Sector Organizations:

Cooperatives Europe CE GEBC Banking B

COGECA Agriculture A
UEPS Pharmacy P
CECOP Ind. & Serv. I
EUROCOOP Consumers C

Organizations classified by country Sector Enterprises Members Employees Sect C-Sect

AU - Austria
AU - Österreichicher Verband Gemeinnütziger Bauvereinigungen - Revisionsverband Housing 101 413.000 4.300 H CE
AU - Österreichischer Genossenschaftsverband Banking 68 650.000 6.684 B
AU - Österreichische Raiffeisenbanken Banking 574 1.655.153 30.900 B
AU - Austrian Raiffeisen association ORV Agriculture - Bank. 1.002 450.000 22.000 A
Total 1.745 3.168.153 63.884

BE - Belgium
BE - Fédération belge de l'économie sociale et coopérative FEBECOOP * 150 500.000 9.000 CE
Fesocolab / Febecoop Housing 8 6.000 H
P&V Assurances / Febecoop Insurance 1 150.000 1.488 CE
BE - Office des pharmacies coopératives OPHACO Pharmacy 16 3.500 P CE
BE - Arcopar SCRL 5 744.822 15 CE
BE - SAW Industry & Services 91 1.000 3.000 I
BE - Crédit professionnel Banking 9 44 B
Total 271 1.245.822 15.559

BU - Bulgaria
BU - Central Co-operative Union CCU Consumers 884 187.000 13.343 C CE
BU - National Union of Workers' Producers Co-operatives NUWPC Industry & Services 305 8.100 9.000 I CE
BU - Central Co-operative Bank Banking 179 5.311 1.111 B
Total 1.368 200.411 23.454

CY - Cyprus
CY - Pancyprian Co-operative Confederation * 214 356.866 1.741 CE
ESEL Spolp / Pancyprian Co-op Confederation Consumers 1 30.000 237 C
CY - Co-operative Central Bank Ltd CCB * Banking 331 551.975 2.693 B CE
CY - Cyprus Turkish Co-operative Central Bank Ltd Banking 215 40.000 265 CE
Total 760 948.841 4.699

CZ - Czech Republic
CZ - Cooperative Association of the Czech Republic DA CR * 1.423 897.900 67.828 CE
Agricultural Association of the Czech Republic ZS CR / DA CR Agriculture 412 34.000 A

Czech Union of Production Cooperatives SCMVD / DA CR Industry & Services 210 18.600 19.430 I
Czech Union of Housing Cooperatives SCMBD / DA CR Housing 681 H
Czech Union of Consumer Cooperatives SCMSD / DA CR Consumers 59 282.678 15.528 C
Total 1.423 897.900 67.828

DE - Germany
DE - DGRV * 5.342 17.600.000 470.000 CE
ZDK / DGRV Consumers 80 100.000 11.000 C CE
DRV / DGRV Agriculture 3.188 2.200.000 108.000 A
BVR/DZ bank / DGRV Banking 1.257 15.724.909 170.000 B
DE - GDW Housing 2.000 3.000.000 21.000 H CE
DE - Konsumverband eG Consumers 23 500.000 4.000 CE
DE - VDP Industry & Services 97 35.000 35.000 I
Total 7.462 21.135.000 530.000

DK - Denmark
DK - Kooperationen DKF * Industry & Services 97 4.803 14.500 I CE
Boligselskabernes Landsforening BL / DKF Housing 216.100 H
Sammenslutningen Danske Andelskasser / DKF Banking 29 64.000 483 B
DK - Danish Agricultural Council (Landbrugsraadet) Agriculture 11 81.500 35.000 A CE
DK - Consumer Co-operative Denmark FDB Consumers 400 1.600.000 19.417 C CE
Total 537 1.966.403 69.400

EE - Estonia
EE - Estonian Co-operative Association ECA * Agricultue 201 70.000 3.600 A
Central Society of Estonian Consumers Co-operatives ETK / ECA Consumers 22 60.000 3.105 C
EE - Estonian Cooperative Housing Association EKYL Housing 8.500 340.000 1.200 H
EE - Estonian Union of Worker Cooperatives ESTCOOP Industry & Services 3 4 10 I
Total 8.704 410.004 4.810

ES - Spain
ES - Confederacion Empresarail Espanola de la Economia Social CEPES * 25.555 3.758.530 317.806 CE
Confederacion Espanola de Cooperativas de Trabajo Asociado COCETA / CEPES Industry & Services 18.700 223.500 269.000 I CE
Confederacion de Cooperativas Agrarias de Espana CCAE / CEPES Agriculture 2.815 969.528 90.654 A CE
Confederacio de Cooperativas de Catalunya CCC / CEPES 1.042 837.901 57.638 CE
CONCOVI / CEPES Housing 293 42.353 251 H
CONFESAL / CEPES Industry & Services 6.000 30.836 34.266 I
UNACOMAR / CEPES Agriculture 200 12.500 A
HISPACOOP / CEPES Consumers 155 1.542.000 38.758 C
ES - Confederacion de Cooperativas de Euskadi CCE CE
ES - Fundacion Espiru CE
ES - Union Nacional de Cooperativas de Consumidores y Usuarios de Espana UNCCUE Consumers 253 182.158 4.000 CE
ES - Union nacional de cooperativas de credito Banking 83 1.799.474 18.335 B
Total 25.891 5.740.162 340.141

FI - Finland
FI - Pellervo Confederation of Finnish Co-operatives * Agriculture 42 200.000 45.540 A CE
FI - SOK Association SOKL Consumers 44 1.624.060 34.045 C CE
FI - YH-Suomi Oy Housing 77 H
FI - Okobank Banking 238 1.133.000 11.974 B
FI - COOP Finland Industry & Services 70 350 500 I
Total 471 2.957.410 92.059

FR - France
FR - Groupement National de la Coopération GNC * 21.200 22.463.782 1.040.545 CE
Fédération Nationale des Coop de Consommateurs FNCC Consumers 30 2.000.000 13.000 CE
Confédération Générale des SCOP CGSCOP Industry & Services 1.700 28.500 38.000 I CE
Groupe Crédit Coopératif Banking 1 31.634 1.660 CE
Crédit Mutuel CM Banking 1.920 6.700.000 57.000 B CE
Confédération Nationale de la Mutualité, de la Coopération et du Crédit Agricole CNMCCA Banking 41 5.700.000 134.000 CE
Crédit Agricole FNCA Banking Cfr. CNMCCA Cfr. CNMCCA Cfr. CNMCCA B
Coop de France Agriculture 15.900 650.000 150.000 A
Federation nat des Soc Coop d'HLM FNSCHLM Housing 162 43.196 740 H
Banques Populaires BFBP Banking 20 2.900.000 44.509 B
Total 21.200 22.463.782 1.040.545

GR - Greece
GR - Association of Cooperative Banks of Greece ESTE Banking 16 172.080 970 B
GR - Panhellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Co-operatives PASEGES Agriculture 6.464 746.812 11.375 A
Total 6.480 918.892 12.345

HU - Hungary
HU - National Federation of Agricultural Co-operators and Producers MOSZ Agriculture 800 40.000 25.000 CE
HU - National Federation of Consumers Co-operatives & Trade Associations AFEOSZ Consumers 150 100.000 34.000 C CE
HU - Hungarian Industrial Association OKISZ Industry & Services 221 20.000 11.000 CE
HU - National Association of Hungarian Farmers’ Societies and Co-operatives MAGOSZ Agriculture - Cons. 50 6.000 5.400 A
HU - Association of Hungarian Producers’ Sales and Service Co-operatives HANGYA Agriculture - Cons. 400 30.000 6.000 A
HU - LOSZ Housing 1.281 281.000 6.600 H
HU - National Federation of Savings cooperatives OTSZ Banking 142 500.000 8.500 B
Total 3.044 977.000 96.500

IR - Ireland
IR - National Association of Building Cooperatives NABCO Housing 10 2.000 22 H
IR - Irish Cooperative Organization Society ICOS Agriculture 83 187.727 18.847 A
IR - Irish League of credit unions ILCU Banking 584 3.000.000 3.800 B
Total 677 3.189.727 22.669

IT - Italy
IT - Associazione Generale Cooperative Italiane AGCI * 6.004 301.238 16.439 CE
Agci Prod. & Servizi Industry & Services 2.051 57.932 80.000 I
Agci Agrital Agriculture 722 57.256 7.824 A
Agci Solidarietà Social Care 515 37.584 26.954 I
IT - Confederazione delle Cooperative Italiane Confcooperative * 19.202 2.878.362 465.516 CE
Confcooperative Fedagri Agriculture 3.716 527.500 66.590 A
Confcooperative Federabitazione Housing 2.771 186.929 705 H
Confcooperative Federcasse Banking 438 805.571 30.000 B
Confcooperative Federsolidarièta Industry & Services 4.550 182.000 155.000 I
Confcooperative Federlavoro e Servizi Industry & Services 4.847 130.000 180.000 I
IT - Lega Nazionale delle Cooperative e Mutue Legacoop * 15.204 7.736.210 414.383 CE
Legacoop Anca Agriculture 2.548 220.000 23.740 A
Legacoop ANCPL Industry & Services 883 24.400 35.500 I
Legacoop ANCST Industry & Services 3.200 155.936 218.857 I
Legacoop Sociali Social Care 1.500 50.000 55.000 I
Legacoop ANCC COOP Consumers 140 6.400.000 54.500 C
Legacoop ANCAB Housing 1.832 420.000 1.530 H
IT - Assoc Nazionale fra le Banche Populari Banking 90 1.070.000 72.144 B
Total 40.500 11.985.810 968.482

LU - Luxemburg
LU - CO-Labour Industry & Services 11 215 359 I
LU - Caisse Centrale Raiffeisen Banking 18 4.852 466 B
Total 29 5.067 825

LT - Lithuania
LT - Lithuanian Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies LITCOOPUNION Consumers 44 40.058 5.079 CE
LT - Kooperacigos Kelias Agriculture 211 10.670 1.600 A
LT - Lithuanian Credit Union Banking 65 68.000 350 B
Total 320 118.728 7.029

LV - Latvia
LV - Latvian Central Co-operative Union TURIBA Consumers Consumers 11 9.900 CE
LV - Latvian Agricultural Cooperatives Association LKKA Agriculture 63 7.430 440 A
Total 74 17.330 440

MA - Malta
MA - Organization of Maltese Co-operatives Apex * 59 4.652 238 I/A CE
Total 59 4.652 238

NT - Netherlands
NT - Oikocredit Banking 19 27.000 137 CE

NT - Rabobank Nederland Banking 189 1.640.000 48.076 B
NT - National Co-operative Council for Agriculture and Horticulture NCR Agriculture 522 806.000 114.147 A
NT - Coop Codis Consumers 1 650.000 3.226 C
Total 731 3.123.000 165.586

PL - Poland
PL - National Co-operative Council NCC * 12.320 10.000.000 500.000 CE
Auditing Union of Housing Co-operatives of the Republic of Poland / NCC Housing 580 975.000 9.500 H CE
National Association of Co-operative Savings and Credits Unions NACSCU / NCC Financial 69 1.551.000 5.407 CE
National Supervision Union of Consumers Coperatives SPOLEM / NCC Consumers 270 70.000 40.000 CE
National Auditing Union of Workers' Co-operatives NAUWC / NCC Industry & Services 403 20.000 20.241 I CE
National Union of Co-operative Banks KZBS / NCC Banking 588 2.500.000 28.283 B CE
Total 12.320 10.000.000 500.000

PT - Portugal
PT - Confederaçao Nacional das Cooperativas Agricolas e do Crédito Agricola CONFAGRI * Agriculture 944 1.035.000 18.000 A CE
PT - Confederation of Portuguese Co-operatives CONFECOOP * 2.000 1.100.000 29.000 CE
FENACHE / Confecoop Housing 66 149.500 1.600 H
FENACOOP / Confecoop Consumers 117 300.000 2.000 C
FENACERCI / Confecoop Industry & Services 52 8.000 2.500 I
FENACAM / Confecoop Banking 111 300.000 3.677 B
PT - Instituto Antonio Sergio do Sector Cooperativo INSCOOP CE
Total 2.944 2.135.000 47.000

RO - Romania
RO - National Union of Handicraft & production Co-operatives of Romania UCECOM Industry & Services 560 24.245 27.367 I CE
RO - National Union of Consumers Co-operatives CENTROCOOP Consumers 1.051 38.177 14.721 C CE
RO - Creditcoop Banking Banking 124 760.000 2.600 B
Total 1.735 822.422 44.688

SE - Sweden
SE - Union of Housing co-operatives HSB Housing 3.845 536.000 3.700 H CE
SE - Kooperativa Förbundet KF Consumers 58 3.000.000 28.900 C CE
SE - Riksbyggen Co-operatives Housing Union Housing 1.690 170.000 3.000 H CE
SE - Landshypotek Banking 10 69.216 107 B
SE - Coompanion FKU Industry & Services 2.300 35.500 I
SE - Federation of Swedish Farmers LRF Agriculture 30 165.000 30.000 A
Total 7.933 3.940.216 101.207

SL - Slovenia
SL - Cooperative Union of Slovenian Agriculture and Food ZZS Agriculture 75 18.145 3.203 A CE
SL - Association of Cooperatives ZKS Industry & Services 7 24 31 I
Total 82 18.169 3.234

SK - Slovak Republic
SK - Co-operative Union of the Slovak Republic CUSR * 484 622.188 35.613 CE
Union of Agricultural Cooperatives and Commercial Societies UACCS / CUSR Agriculture 253 100.000 14.000 A
Coop Product Slovakia CPS / CUSR Industry & Services 104 3.400 6.927 I
Slovak Union of Housing Cooperatives SZBD / CUSR Housing 97 295.000 3.047 H
Coop Jednota CJS / CUSR Consumers 32 224.358 13.308 C
Total 484 622.188 35.613

UK - United Kingdom
UK - Co-operatives UK * 355 8.177.050 89.087 I CE
Co-operative insurance society CIS / Cooperatives UK Insurance 3 3.238.000 9.107 CE
The Co-operative Bank plc / Cooperatives UK Banking 119 4.271 B CE
Co-operative Group CWS / Cooperatives UK Consumers 39 2.500.000 68.112 C CE
Total 355 8.177.050 89.087


Figures by country

Regrouping the data by country gives the following table:

27 EU Member States

Enterprises Members Employees

Austria 1.745 3.168.153 63.884

Belgium 271 1.245.822 15.559
Bulgaria 1.368 200.411 23.454
Cyprus 760 948.841 4.699
Czech Republic 1.423 897.900 67.828
Denmark 537 1.966.403 69.400
Estonia 8.704 410.004 4.810
Finland 471 2.957.410 92.059
France 21.200 22.463.782 1.040.545
Germany 7.462 21.135.000 530.000
Greece 6.480 918.892 12.345
Hungary 3.044 977.000 96.500
Ireland 677 3.189.727 22.669
Italy 40.500 11.985.810 968.482
Latvia 74 17.330 440
Lithuania 320 118.728 7.029
Luxemburg 29 5.067 825
Malta 59 4.652 238
Netherlands 731 3.123.000 165.586
Poland 12.320 10.000.000 500.000
Portugal 2.944 2.135.000 47.000
Romania 1.735 822.422 44.688
Slovak Republic 484 622.188 35.613
Slovenia 82 18.169 3.234
Spain 25.891 5.740.162 340.141
Sweden 7.933 3.940.216 101.207
United Kindom 355 8.177.050 89.087

TOTAL 147.599 107.189.139 4.347.322

The total figures for the EU 27 are:

147,000 enterprises, 107 million members and 4.35 million jobs

The key figures by country

The following maps and graphs give the representation and ranking by country in the EU 27 based on
the 3 indicators: number of co-operative enterprises, number of co-operative members and number of


The map shows that most co-operatives can be found in France, Italy, Spain and Poland. In Spain and
Italy, this phenomenon is mainly due to the high number of worker co-operatives. In France, it is the
strong agricultural sector, whereas in Poland, it is a mix of different kinds of co-operatives. It can also
be noticed, that in the eastern countries, Estonia disposes especially of a high number of co-
operatives, due to its strong housing sector. This can be represented also as follows:


20.000 Enterprises


Concerning the number of members, Germany and the UK are highly ranked compared to their
number of enterprises; this can be explained by the greater impact consumer and banking co-
operatives have on this figure. Proportionally, there are fewer members per co-operative in the other
sectors. Poland, Italy, France and Spain can also be highlighted as having many co-operative









Most jobs in co-operatives are found in France and Italy followed by Germany, Poland and then Spain.
Hungary can also be mentioned where the strong agricultural and consumer sector is the main cause
for numerous jobs.








The key figures by sector

If we distinguish these figures into the main 7 co-operative sectors, we obtain a interesting repartition
of the co-operative reality:


Industry & Services
Not EU organised sectors

Most co-operative enterprises in the EU 27 belong to the agricultural and the industrial services
sectors. Within the industrial services sector, most of the co-operatives are small entities, and are very
numerous in some countries as Spain and Italy. The banking and the consumer sectors have the
fewest enterprises.


Industry & Services
Not EU organised sectors

The banking and the consumer sectors have the most members, due to their activity; within the banks
most of the clients are also members, and the consumer co-operatives are by their very nature based
on their members. The total number of the housing sector is probably underestimated, because many
organizations do not know the number of their members, and the members of these organizations are
not taken into account.


Industry & Services
Not EU organised sectors

The most employees are within the industrial services sector, followed by the agricultural- and
banking sector, and others. In the housing sector, the number of employees is low compared to the
high number of enterprises and members, which is due to the implication within the co-operative
tasks by the members.

The representativeness of COOPERATIVES EUROPE

Out of these tables, some interesting trends appear. If we cross-reference this data with the figures
available for whole Europe we can deduce that COOPERATIVES EUROPE represents about 70% of the
organised European co-operative federations, namely 141 out of 208 existing co-operative

Further, the first figures of employees correspond to 4.8 to 5 million in the EU 27, while the member
organizations of COOPERATIVES EUROPE stand for 4.35 million jobs in these countries, being equivalent
to 87%. The percentage of co-operative enterprises being a member of COOPERATIVES EUROPE equals
78% (147.599 out of 190.000) and the number of members to 85% (107 million out of 126 million).
This confirms that the member organizations of COOPERATIVES EUROPE are the larger European Co-
operative organizations.

These rates have to be considered as first figures, because the total numbers of co-operative
enterprises or members in some countries are estimations. Nevertheless, they give a good global view
and indication of the representativeness of COOPERATIVES EUROPE.

Co-operative Enterprises in Europe


Members of Cooperatives
Non members of Cooperatives

Co-operative Members in Europe


Members of Cooperatives
Non members of Cooperatives


Jobs in Co-operatives in Europe


Members of Cooperatives
Non members of Cooperatives


Capacities of the co-operative organizations

This graph shows the range of roles fulfilled by co-operative organizations (sectoral or inter-sectoral)
for their members.

Range of roles fulfilled by co-operative organisations towards

their members











Participation in

Promotion of the
Consultation and

sectoral social

intersectoral social

Different services
Participation in

Studies &
to members



This graph indicates the percentage of the COOPERATIVES EUROPE member organizations fulfilling the
different roles; their main capacity on behalf of their members is “lobbying” to European and
especially national authorities. The second place takes the different ‘services delivered to the
members’, followed by the ‘communication and visibility’ and then ‘participation in the social dialogue’.
This analysis shows without doubt that most of the organised co-operative federations are used to
work with their member enterprises; to consult them and to promote and defend their interests.
These are all important elements for the organizations and for COOPERATIVES EUROPE to be considered
as representative and capable to be a European Social Partner.

Co-operatives within the social dialogue

This second part of this chapter gives an overview over the different aspects of participation of the
member organizations of COOPERATIVES EUROPE within the social dialogue. It concerns only the former
EU 25 member states (until 2006, without Bulgaria and Romania), for the reasons already mentioned
above. The information represented within the maps concern also exclusively the co-operative
organizations being members of COOPERATIVES EUROPE – and not the co-operative organizations in
general – as the aim is to retrace the participation within the social dialogue of COOPERATIVES EUROPE’s
member organizations.

Perception of the social dialogue

The first table shows the perception the co-operative organizations have about the Social Dialogue
and ranks the importance of the different levels it can take.

The scale for the ranking was the following:

SD is not important 1
Interest in SD 2
SD is important 3
SD is very important 4
SD is essential 5

Important Important Important at Important
at business at national national at
level sectoral intersectoral European
level level level
Austria 3 3 3 2
Belgium 3 3 3 2
Cyprus 5 4 4 3
Czech Republic 4 3 3
Denmark 5 5 5
Estonia 2 3 3 2
Finland 4 4
France 4 4 3 3
Germany 3 3 2 2
Greece 3 3 4
Hungary 4 4 3
Ireland 5 4 4 3
Italy 3 4 4 5
Latvia 3 5 2 3
Lithuania 4 4 3 3
Luxemburg 3 4 3
Malta 4 5 5 5
Netherlands 4 4 3 3
Poland 5 5 5 5
Portugal 3 3 3 3
Slovak Republic 4 3 3 3
Slovenia 4 4 2 2
Spain 5 5 5 5
Sweden 5 5 5 5
United Kindom 3 4 3

This table indicates that the Social Dialogue appears to be estimated as “very important” at a national
sectoral level and as “important” to “very important” at all the other levels.

Further, it can be said, that the lower result at the European level in the perception of the importance
of the Social Dialogue does not necessarily mean that it is perceived as less important but rather that
the day-to-day reality of the co-operative organizations is more concentrated on national issues.

Participation in the social dialogue

The following map gives an overview of the implication of co-operative organizations within the social
dialogue. The direct participation indicates that at least one organization participates specifically as a
co-operative organization within the social dialogue, whereas the indirect participation stands for the
participation through another organization.

Co-operative organizations from 17 out of the 25 different Member States indicate that at least one
co-operative organization in the country is taking part directly in the national Social Dialogue. The
indirect participation is present in 5 countries, while 2 do not have any co-operative organization being
represented within the consultations or negotiations.

It has to be noted, that this map doesn’t draw a difference between the different levels of
participation, if it is rather only a consultation process or a direct participation within the negotiations
on wages, working time or working conditions.

Further, the countries marked as “direct participation”, may have some other sectoral co-operative
organizations which participate indirectly as well. It can be said that out of the 58 European
organizations – members of Cooperatives Europe, and participating within the social dialogue – 31
do it specifically as a co-operative organization.

Level of co-operative participation

This participation has also been examined to understand at what level of the Social Dialogue the co-
operative organizations are involved. The two possible levels are a participation in the national cross
sector social dialogue and/or a participation in the sector social dialogue. The following map
represents at which levels the organizations are implicated:

Frequency of participation

Another aspect is the frequency of participation in the social dialogue by the co-operative
organizations. If the previous table gave us an indication on the level and form of participation, the
graph below points out the frequency of participation in the national Social Dialogue.






Rare participation Occasional Regular participation Highly regular
participation participation

It can be observed that the majority of the co-operative organizations participate on a regular or
highly regular basis (45 organizations out of 58), which underlines that whenever co-operative
organizations are part of the Social Dialogue, their involvement is rather strong.

Mandate for negotiation

The following map shows which kind of mandate do co-operative organizations have within the
different countries.

In 19 out of the 25 member states in which co-operative organizations participate, representatives of

the co-operative sector have a mandate for negotiation. This is more often the case for national sector
negotiations rather than for cross-sector negotiations, while in most countries either one organization
disposes of both, or several organizations cover both levels. In 10 out of the 19 countries, co-
operative organizations have both an inter-sectoral and sectoral negotiation mandate, while the ones
of the 9 other countries are active exclusively in the national sectoral or intersectoral negotiations.

Co-operative involvement in the national social dialogue

The following map gives an overview over the implication of the co-operative organizations within the
social dialogue in the different countries.

A high involvement means that the majority of the co-operative organizations taking part within the
social dialogue in a country take part within the negotiations, while a low involvement means that
they have rather only a consultative function. A medium involvement means that the main
participation is done through consultations but that sometimes participation within the negotiations
also takes place.

Co-operative organizations and their expectations for a
European social dialogue

The last part of the questionnaire dealt with the expectations of co-operative organizations concerning
the social dialogue. To a first question asking if the co-operative organization would like to have
(more) specific representatives in the social dialogue, the answer was strongly positive.

Further, this enhancement of a stronger specific co-operative representation is asked for by more than
75% of the questioned co-operative organizations at all the three levels (national sector, national
cross-sector and at the European level), while 85% express this request only concerning the national
social dialogue.

The fields of negotiation where co-operative organizations are asking for a stronger participation in
the Social Dialogue are: specific negotiation of wages, of working time & conditions, of collective-
bargaining agreements and on employment policies.

The co-operative organizations are also strongly interested to develop more joint actions with the
trade unions and with other European Social Partners.


This report underlines the importance of the European Social Dialogue and its key role in the
European social model and the Lisbon Strategy. ‘Social Dialogue’ means open discussions,
negotiations and joint actions undertaken by the European social partners and is therefore a powerful
tool concerning the themes and actions linked to employment and cohesion policies, labour law and
working conditions and other related subjects.

It is our conviction, looking at the practices of COOPERATIVES EUROPE member organizations in their
national Social Dialogues but also considering the importance of this specific ensemble of enterprises,
that the European Social Dialogue could be enriched with a real added-value through innovative co-
operative values, practices and principles.

To enter this Social Dialogue the representativeness of an organization has to be verified. It appears
from the results presented in the four chapters of this final report that COOPERATIVES EUROPE stands in
the EU 27 for 142 different co-operative organizations, representing more than 147,000
enterprises, 107 million members and 4.4 million jobs. It has member organizations in all the
different countries and covers the largest part of all the structured co-operative realities.
Cooperatives Europe is the European representative organization of the co-operative
enterprise system, representing more than 80% of all existing co-operatives.

An important number of the co-operative organizations questioned have also demonstrated their
capacity in the field of national Social Dialogue and many are regular partners in sector or cross-sector
Social Dialogue. Generally they participate in the national social dialogue as specific co-operative
organizations. Further, 3 out of the 7 European sectoral co-operative organizations are European
Social partners in their sector Social dialogue.

Therefore, it appears that essential conditions for COOPERATIVES EUROPE to be recognized as a

European cross sector Social Partner are met.:
- COOPERATIVES EUROPE has member organizations in all 27 EU member states
- At European level COOPERATIVES EUROPE is organised in 7 sectors, but you can find co-operatives in
most of the European business sectors
- In all EU member states these co-operative member organizations are structured in enterprise
federations and have the capacity to consult their member enterprises
- The majority of COOPERATIVES EUROPE national member organizations are part of their sectoral or
cross sectoral national Social dialogue and have a mandate for negotiation.

This first project to study the situation of COOPERATIVES EUROPE in the European Social dialogue is the
starting point of a process to analyse the place of co-operatives in the European sector and cross
sector Social dialogue, to check added value the co-operative different business model can bring to
the ongoing Social dialogue, to build alliances and agreements with the existing European Social

From the European SPP conference in Prague in June 2007, to the final debriefing seminar in Brussels,
November 21, COOPERATIVES EUROPE has build the relationship with the ETUC, CEEP and UEAPME for a
better understanding of the European Social dialogue, but also to check together possible future
actions to strengthen the place and position of co-operatives in this European Social dialogue: In the
existing sectoral dialogues, in new sectors, but also last but not least in the European cross sector
Social dialogue.



CECOP aisbl (Confédération Européenne des Coopératives de Travail, des Coopératives Sociales et
des Entreprises Sociales et Participatives)
BE - Belgique/België/Belgien

CIRIEC (Centre International de Recherches et d’Information sur l’Economie Publique, Sociale et

BE - Belgique/België/Belgien

HU - Magyarország

CONFCOOPERATIVE (Confederazione Cooperative Italiane)

IT - Italia

UK - United Kingdom

GNC (Groupement National de la Coopération)

FR – France

DACR (Druzstevni Associace Ceske Republiky)

CZ - Ceská republika

DGRV (Deutscher Genossenschafts und Raiffeisenverband)

DE - Deutschland

FEBECOOP asbl (Fédération Belge des Coopératives)

BE - Belgique/België/Belgien

GEBC (Groupement Européen des Banques Coopératives)

BE - Belgique/België/Belgien

KFO (Swedish Co-operative Employers’ Organization)

SE - Sverige

NCC (Krajowa Rada Spoldzielcza)

PL - Polska

SOK (Suomen Osuuskauppojen Keskuskunta)

FI - Suomi/Finland

UEPS (Union Européenne des Pharmacies sociales)

BE - Belgique/België/Belgien

CEPES (Confederación de Cooperativas de Euskadi)

ES – España


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 Co-operatives UK http://www.cooperatives-uk.coop/live/cme0.htm
 ETUC Resource Centre http://www.resourceetuc.com/
 European Federation of Employee Share Ownership (EFES) http://www.employee-ownership.be/
 European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) on-line http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/
 European Liaison Committee for Social Housing (CECODHAS) http://www.cecodhas.org/content/
 Europa NU http://www.europa-nu.nl/
 Febecoop (Belgium) http://www.febecoop.be/
 Groupement National de la Coopération http://www.entreprises.coop/
 International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) http://www.ica.coop/al-ica/

 European sectoral co-operative organizations


 European Commission


COOPERATIVES EUROPE asbl – square Ambiorix 32, bte 2 – BE – 1000 Brussels

Tel. (32/2) 280 16 09 – Fax (32/2) 235 28 60 – office@coopseurope.coop –