The IndyCube Community, which will provide services, representation, and a collective voice, aims to sign up more than 100,000 members over the next five years.
In addition to Community’s traditional trade union roles of legal advice and representation, the partnership will offer specialist support on matters such as contract disputes, copyright law, intellectual property, and shareholder agreements, as well as many other areas relevant to self-employed workers.
Indycube Community will also offer business advice for start-ups and freelancers, covering everything from invoicing and tax returns, to insurance and health and safety.
The venture comes amid growing concern over working conditions for millions of self-employed people, with the aftermath of the economic crisis and the rise of automation and the gig economy forcing workers to take the freelance route.
The recent government-commissioned Taylor review received a mixed reaction from the trade union and co-op movements.
And Mark Hooper, founder of IndyCube which offers office co-working space and other support to freelance workers, recently told delegates at Co-operative Congress of his concerns over declining working conditions for the self-employed.
IndyCube hopes to alleviate some of these problems, including “the scourge of late payments and cash flow crises”, by offering a comprehensive invoice factoring service.
“Late payments currently leave UK small businesses and freelancers £26bn out of pocket,” it says. “Invoice factoring services are normally only available to large, well established companies, but using the collective strength of their members, Indycube Community will give independent workers the security of always being paid on time.”
Members of Indycube Community will also have access to Indycube’s existing network of 30 co-working sites, which provide low cost desk space as well as facilities such as creative studios and workshops.
Most of Indycube’s existing sites are in Wales, but additional sites will open across the whole of the UK in the coming year.
Mr Hooper said: “For several years, Indycube has supported independent workers by providing low cost spaces to work, collaborate and socialise.
“Our partnership with Community is the next step in our journey and will give self-employed workers a collective voice and access to support and services that would normally be out of their reach.
“Whether someone is self-employed, a freelancer, or working in the gig economy, Indycube Community will help make their working world better. No one has tried this before, and we are really excited about working to give support, representation and guidance to the millions of people in Britain who work independently.”
John Park, assistant general secretary of Community, said: “This partnership between Community and Indycube will support self-employed workers like never before. We are taking the best bits of traditional trade unionism and making them relevant to modern, independent workers, and delivering them through an innovative online platform.
“Millions of people in the UK survive in precarious self-employment; Indycube Community has the potential to give real power and control to those workers, just as Community has done in traditional industries. We are proud of our heritage, but we know that to stay relevant we must meet the challenges of the modern world of work.”