Co-ops call on new French parliament to help the sector grow

New president Emmanuel Macron has won a large majority in the legislature – and the co-op movement is among those with a wish list of policies

As the latest round of elections in France continues its political realignment, the country’s co-op movement has called for a series of measures to foster the growth of the sector.

The new centrist force in French politics – the fledgeling La REM party led by recently elected president Emmanuel Macron, and its smaller ally the Democratic Movement (MoDem) – has continued its rise by winning a large majority in the French parliament, taking 351 out of 577 seats.

Mr Macron has been vocal in his support for the co-op movement, an encouraging sign for Les Scop, the national federation of worker and collective interest co-ops, which has a policy wish list for the country’s new leadership.

It has published a series of suggested measures to strengthen the country’s co-ops – which, it says, are well placed to respond to the great economic and social changes faces by France.

According to a 2016 survey by IFOP, over 91% of French taking part in co-ops believe its ethos gives their work a purpose. At ACOME, a co-op industrial group with 1,500 employees, around 77% of workers are keen to invest in the enterprise.

The federation says this can be built on, by encouraging employees to invest in their enterprise through advantageous saving plans. Les Scop proposes tripling the amount saved when employees decide to invest it in the enterprise.

In addition, the federation suggests a provision to ensure a company can be transferred to employees on a tax-free basis.

Another proposal is a 33-50% reduction in income tax for any shares acquired by the employee at the time of the takeover and after the process. Furthermore, the organisation wants a stronger emphasis on maintaining jobs in the event of a firm’s liquidation.

Start-up co-ops are also on Les Scop’s agenda. The federation says encouraging an alternative take-over model, such conversion to a co-op, can help secure the long-term future of an enterprise, particularly in the tech sector.

Les Scop pledges to continue its involvement in Coop Venture, an investment fund supporting tech companies which use co-operative models. The federation insists on placing a stronger emphasis on co-operatives as an alternative to the sometimes insecure and often isolated jobs in the IT industry.

Community interest co-ops are also mentioned in the manifesto as means to involve citizens, users and communities. Les Scop suggests these models benefited from patronage, just like other organisations and associations do.

Research and development are also key to growing the co-operative sector, according to the federation. Les Scop suggests giving tax credits to stimulate research and development on social innovation.

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