Working Together

Working Together, a new report authored by myself, Pat Conaty and Cilla Ross was launched on tuesday 20th March 2018 at the Urdd in Cardiff

The UK is failing its ‘precarious’ workers says new report:-

Britain is failing its growing army of self-employed workers according to a new report released today (Tuesday 20 March).

With 7.1 million workers engaged in ‘precarious’ employment and 77 per cent of the self-employed living in poverty, the report Working Together: Trade Union and Co-operative Innovations for Precarious Workcalls for increased protection for those operating in the so-called gig economy.  

“Not only do they have almost no security, but while the average employed worker is losing out year by year in real terms, the self-employed are doing even worse, earning less each year in cash terms,” said co-author Alex Bird. “1.7 million of those in precarious employment are earning less than the national minimum wage, with no real enforcement of the law, and the self-employed are not even covered by the existing legislation.” Continue reading


I’m currently in France, so getting a slightly different view of the world through my local paper (Ouest France – France’s largest circulation newspaper, published by the Humanist Philosophical Society!) and the France 24 (France’s equivalent of the BBC World Service TV with the wonderful Mark Owen)

The big railway story in the UK is of course rising fares exceeding wage rises for the umpteenth year running, together with the chaos of privatisation, and over half of trains now either late or cancelled. For added spice her’s the hybrid diesel/electric trains from London to Swansea and Bristol because we were too mean to electrify all the line. These have the worst of both worlds as the electric train has to drag along tonnes of diesel engine, thus reducing speed, economy and acceleration. That’s if they didn’t break down all the time.

The big story in France, though, is the launch of the new TGV line from Paris Montparnasse to Brittany, which will shorten journey times to under 3 hours to Brest, 2 hours to Nantes, and under 1.5 hours to Rennes. There are 41 trains each day, compared to 18/day to Cardiff and Swansea.

From Paris to Nantes, prices start at £32 each way for a 239 miles journey with a guaranteed seat. Compare that to Cardiff to London with a (pre-booked only) fare of £45.80 off peak single for 150 miles (also in 2 hours) with a strong possibility of standing all the way. The on-peak walk on fare is £117.50 each way!

Oh, did I forget to mention, French Railways, SNCF, are state owned and always have been.

A new way of working for the self-employed – SMart

In Britain, along with Brexit, we are seeing a change to our economy through a huge rise in the number of people working as self-employed. It is currently at around 4.8m, which is over 15% of the workforce and is set to outnumber those in the public sector by 2018.

The UK’s flexible labour market is not only hugely productive, contributing over £255bn to the economy every year; it is also one of our greatest competitive advantages. This is five times Britain’s Brexit bill. In people terms it is larger than the public sector, yet it tends to be disregarded by policy makers and the self-employed have little bargaining or political power.

The growth in self employment isn’t restricted to the UK, but is happening across the world, across Europe and in North America. A fledgling freelancing movement is starting to emerge as workers across borders are joining together in solidarity and co-operation.

In 2016 Co-operatives UK published a report called ‘Not Alone – trade union and co‑operative solutions for the self-employed’. It recommended a partnership approach between unions, co-ops and mutuals. Partly as a result of this report, the British trade union Community has formed a partnership with the shared workspace co-operative, Indycube. Both have strong links in Wales and a strong focus on the growing self-employed workforce. Continue reading

Historic meeting of Cross Party Groups from the devolved nations

Co-operators and elected representatives from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland met for the first time on Feb 5th 2016 at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to discuss how to take forward the co-operative agenda in their regions.


The private meeting, organised jointly by the Cross party Groups’ secretariats, myself, Erskine Holmes and James Proctor featured members of the Cross-Party Groups in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. A previous meeting held in Cardiff in 2012 had only had Members from two of the three regions able to attend. Continue reading

It’s all about the hyphen

My fellow Bathonion, Sir Isaac Pitman, the inventor of Pitman shorthand, founder of the Pitman Press, and a bit of a spelling fanatic, argued that the hypen in co-operator was really important to distinguish us from barrel makers. I’ve always agreed with him on that.

Our American cousins, in their desire to simplify spelling, dropped the hyphen centuries ago, but not everyone in the world always agreed with them. So when 2012, the International Year of Co-operators (IYC) came along, a small contest developed. As the IYC was a United Nations project (although it came from an ICA initiative) and they’re based in New York, it developed a logo sans hyphen. The logo was tightly controlled by a legal agreement on its use, which you had to sign before you could download the image files, and which stipulated how exactly it had to be used. The Canadians, however, had different ideas.

2012 IYC Hyphen 2012 IYC

Continue reading

Message from Steve Garrett @ the Jungle in Calais

Just got this message from Steve Garrett of Cultural Concerns in Cardiff:-

Dear all

I’m back in Cardiff  from Calais (Ben from Parsnipship that I went out with is back tomorrow) after some pretty knackering days working with many volunteers from all over Europe, chopping vegetables, washing up etc. and distributing food in the camps.

‘The Jungle’ camp is a muddy and depressing place, people living in tents and shacks, and because no one’s sure how long they’ll be there, some little shops and cafes have even sprung up… and two ramshackle churches.
Although we were doing ‘good work’ (probably served at least 1000 meals a day, mostly to young men) I felt angry and ashamed that UK government has spent millions building a high security fence around the port, but nothing to improve the terrible conditions for the desperate 6 thousand (maybe more, and more coming for sure) in the camp.

They head to the UK because, amongst other reasons, of our reputation for fairness and tolerance! Now people are feeling stuck in the camp, with hope (that essential quality of life) fading.

Will get together with Ben when he’s back for a debrief and to prepare a more detailed bulletin about the situation for people who are interested.
I also intend to lobby Welsh Government to take more of a stand (and more action) on this totally inhumane situation. Let me know if you’d like to be involved


Follow Steve @
ollow Ben @

These links to recent articles in The Guardian give an accurate picture of the situation in the Calais refugee camp.

The only difference is that the pictures in the photo essay were obviously taken in summer – imagine the same scenes ankle deep in mud under grey rainy skies to get a sense of what it looks like now.

Arizmendiarrieta at 100

TU Lankide

22 April 2015, was the hundredth anniversary of the birth of José María Arizmendiarrieta Madariaga, the founder of the Mondragon co-operatives.

An important event to commemorate the birth of the man who inspired the Cooperative Experience which started in Arrasate-Mondragón. “Don José María”, as he was known by his fellow students, was a visionary priest (ideologist of projects such as Caja Laboral Popular, Ikerlan, Mondragon Unibertsitatea, Alecop, Auzo Lagun…), a tireless worker and a creator of hope and shared community projects. In short, a unique person to whom the Basque co-op movement wish to pay a double tribute: firstly, in recognition of both his role and his contribution to business and social development; and secondly, to disseminate his ideals and delve deeper into the Arizmendian values.

In TU lankide, the magazine founded by Arizmendiarrieta himself, Mondragon wants to add its small part in this celebration by contributing a series of biographical notes, various interviews and opinion pieces which we have selected for thisquasi-monographic issue. Thus, throughout the year, both in paper format and on the website, they will be publishing news articles related to the centenary anniversary.

Read the full text:- TU-enero-febrero-2015-INGLÉS1

Can we do it ourselves?

Interesting new film from Sweden about how worker co-operatives can change the entire capitalist economy to economic democracy.

Why do we put up with authoritarianism at work on a scale that in the rest of society would be regarded as an advanced dictatorship?