Co-operatives UK fully supports new efforts, spearheaded by the Co-operative Party, to bring forward Marcora-like legislation in the Senedd and Scottish Parliament.
Why the UK needs Marcora-like legislation
- Legislation that gives workers the time and support they need to explore, organize and undertake a co-operative buyout or rescue, when a business is up going up for sale or under threat (e.g. the Marcora Law in Italy, Social and Solidarity Economy Law in France) would help save hundreds of thousands of good, viable jobs in the years to come
- In the UK worker-led rescues when businesses are closing and jobs are threatened are currently very rare, though Enabled Works is an inspirational example of a homegrown success. Recent growth in employee buyouts in the UK has been driven by the planned exit of owners working in concert with senior managers
- There is overwhelming evidence from countries like Italy, Spain and France that, with the right support in the right circumstances, co-operative buyouts and rescues result in resilient and successful businesses that have the added benefit of sharing wealth and power with all their workers
- While it's in the gift of Devolved Parliaments to pass some vital Marcora-like provisions, other key provisions relating to benefits, labour relations and insolvency for example, are still controlled by the UK government, which is why Co-operatives UK is focusing on encouraging the UK government to develop a strong and ambitious policy of support for employee and worker ownership, through our #1MillionOwners campaign
- In Scotland, we would like to explore in detail whether Marcora-like provisions should form part of Scottish Government's promised Community Wealth Building Bill
- While legislation is important, success really depends on creating and resourcing autonomous institutions and bodies of practice for enabling co-operative buyouts and rescues. On long-term resourcing, we would like to see a new tax relief that exempts from corporation tax a percentage of any surplus that a co-operative chooses to pay into an accredited co-operative development institution
What is the Marcora Law?
The Italian Marcora Law is the cornerstone of a wider legal and institutional framework in Italy, which gives workers in a business the support they need to explore, organize and fund a co-operative buyout or rescue, when a business is up for sale or under threat.
Depending on the circumstances, the business either continues under new worker ownership and control, or workers form a 'new co' co-operative that buys assets from the old business as it is dissolved/wound-up.
The Marcora Law allows Italian workers to claim would-be future unemployment benefits in a lump sum, to help them fund a buyout or rescue and capitalise their new co-operative. The law also established properly-resourced, but crucially autonomous, co-operative development institutions. These provide tailored investment for these co-operatives and expert support to: help workers organise and assess options; negotiate and effect a buyout or rescue; develop their co-operative in the years after.
A third crucial pillar of the Italian framework comes from Italian labour law, which gives Italian workers a ‘right of first refusal’ to buy a business or its assets, when the business is in distress or subject to insolvency procedures.
This wider Italian framework (sometimes called the 'Italian Road') is notably successful and effective at enabling worker buyouts and rescues. But it is crucial to note that the French and Spanish frameworks also have significant merits and UK policymakers should draw on these just as much as the Italian framework.