Press release

Gerardo Pensavalle at Unicorn Grocery

On 3 September Unicorn Grocery in Manchester organised a talk and discussion with Gerardo Pensavalle, a former press worker at Hotel Bauen, a worker owned hotel in Argentina.

John Atherton and Giles Simon attended from Co-operativesUK to help facilitate the evening and there were delegates from Unicorn Grocery, Co-operatives North West and other worker co-operatives in Greater Manchester.

Gerardo discussed the background to the formation of worker co-operatives in Argentina following the economic collapse in 2001. During the economic collapse, many business owners and foreign investors drew all of their money out of the Argentine economy.

As a result, many small and medium enterprises closed due to lack of capital, thereby exacerbating unemployment. Many workers at these enterprises, faced with a sudden loss of employment and no source of income, decided to re-open businesses on their own, without the presence of the owners and their capital, as self-managed worker co-operatives.

Gerardo outlined their achievements - particularly that worker co-operatives in Argentina provided incredible evidence that workers can run businesses themselves with limited capital.

Gerardo commented that an interesting difference between Argentina and the UK is that worker co-operatives there are linked to other worker movements, whereas this is less so in the UK. He also mentioned there was little connection between traditional (consumer) co-operatives in Argentina and the new worker co-operative movement.

Although workers had succeeded in re-opening businesses, giving themselves employment and improving their quality of life, Gerardo did mention some major weaknesses of worker co-operatives in Argentina. He commented that they are often too informal and lack the structures and procedures to make them function more effectively - giving examples of individuals or departments not co-ordinating their work and the difficulties of making decisions in assemblies.

Due to the age, informality and lack of a relationship with the more traditional co-operative movement, Argentina lacks a co-ordinating and representative body, which can work on behalf of worker co-operatives. Gerado was very interested in the strength and maturity of the UK co-operative movement, particularly representation of co-operatives and ongoing work like the worker co-operative code of governance.

Gerardo highlighted that because these co-operatives are re-claimed businesses there are continuing battles over legal status and ownership, with the previous owners wanting to reclaim control now they are being run as successful businesses again.

To find out more information on this topic click on one of the following:

Click here to go to the Manchester Film Co-operative website who are showing 'The Take' - a film about Argentina and co-operatives on 23 September.

You can also click here for an article about Argentina and co-operatives or here for more background information.