Covid19: Updates, 30 March

Updates from the UK and around the world on the co-op response to the coronavirus pandemic


Central England Co-op has brought forward its annual share of profits and increased its colleague discount to thank staff for working through the Covid-19 crisis.

It says its recruitment drive has brought in 500 new staff, as well colleagues redeploying from other parts of its family of businesses go keep its stores stocked and running.

New social distancing measures including the installation of plastic screens at all till points.

Central England Co-op Chief Executive Debbie Robinson said: “Our colleagues and key workers are doing everything they can to ensure our communities continue to be supported during this uncertain time.

“In the spirit of co-operation, we wanted to say thank you by giving them a little something to showcase our gratitude for their hard work and dedication.

“We also wanted to say welcome to all of our new colleagues who have joined in the past few days. Thank you and good luck in your new roles.

“If you’re able to say thank you to our colleagues and to key workers when you see them, we are sure they would really appreciate the support at this time. Please be kind and respectful to everyone around you.”

Midcounties Co-op is also stepping up its efforts to protect colleagues and customers, encouraging the use of cashless payments wherever possible and increasing the contactless limit will be increased to £45 from 1 April.

It adds: “We are doing everything we can to get more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to colleagues who need them as quickly as possible and from today we started to install protective screens across our stores.”

Midcounties says it is now working with over 200 local suppliers, from meat and dairy farmers to drinks producers, so it can offer additional types of product and availability of some key lines.

And it has drafted in specialist cleaning companies to disinfect its Childcare sites to increase protection for colleagues, children and parents.

Sector body Co-operatives UK is hosting local Co-op Connections sessions – online meeting via Zoom which will allow people, co-ops and societies to connect locally and what support is available. Also taking part in the webinars, which are free to join, will be representatives from Co-operatives UK including, where possible, its membership and advice teams.

The first Co-op Connections events take place in Bristol and London in early April. See the full list and book on for free at

The Co-operative Heritage Trust is creating homeschooling resources, including Map Detectives (Key Stage 1&2), which uses Google Maps and other online resources to help children learn more about the history of the community buildings around them. Children can also develop a creative response to what they have learned and share it with the Trust.

And there are cooking lessons, to teach children why Pioneers sold honest food at honest prices – before using common store cupboard ingredients (as used by the Pioneers) to make some delicious Pioneer Biscuits.

The Co-operation Town network of food co-ops has come to Birmingham with a pilot run of hot meals for those in need in the city.

Measures at Essex retailer Chelmsford Star Co-op include the redeployment of staff from its Quadrant department stores, which have temporarily closed because of the lockdown, to its food stores, and the addition of online resources to its website, including guidance on ways to help children at home during the lockdown and self-care advice for people working from home.



Fertiliser co-op IFFCO – the world’s biggest co-op by turnover on GDP per capita, with 35,000 member co-operatives reaching over 50 million farmers, is well placed to help the country tackle the pandemic. Managing director Dr U S Awasthi has outlined new measures, including the distribution of vital sanitary supplies to help people stay safe.


The state-run National Electrification Administration (NEA) said 83 electric co-ops have announced a 30-day extension for electricity consumers to settle their power bills during the Covid-19 crisis.

NEA administrator Edgardo Masongsong said the 30-day payment extension would help ease consumers’  financial burden during the quarantine measures. He also welcomed moves by electric co-ops to protect employees, including home-working arrangements, shortened hours, the reduction of offices to skeleton staff and the production of protective equipment for line workers in the field.


Wingdale Housing Co-op, in the Greenboro area of Ottawa, has voted to give two months of rent relief to its 50 tenants.

“Many members are precariously employed and live gig-to-gig and cheque-to-cheque. Others are on a fixed income and face serious hardship. We felt an obligation as a community to help each other,” said board president Len Busht.

The rent credit can be used any time in the next year, starting with the April payment. The cost will be offset by delaying a major capital project to renovate bathrooms.

Also in Canada, the Saskatoon Co-operative Association has released a newsletter with advice and links for co-ops as they deal with the escalating crisis.

It includes details of federal and state government bodies and support organisations within the co-op movement. It also looks at the issue of AGMs, with guidance on how to seek a delay till after quarantine measures are over or how to hold an online alternative.

New Zealand

National sector body Co-operative Business New Zealand has put together a podcast, supported by Rabobank, where an panel of experts discusses the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on co-ops and the wider economy.

Taking part are Greg Smith from Fat Prophets, Tim Punt from from Rabo Research Food and Agribusiness Australia and New Zealand, Priti Ambani from Tech Futures and government chief whip Michael Wood.


On its website, national co-op body NCBA CLUSA is hosting videos of webinars on Covid-19. The first sees law firm Dorsey and risk management leader Marsh provide advice on preparing a co-operative for potential business interruptions. The second, hosted by NCBA CLUSA with Shared Capital Cooperative, offers advice on navigating the financial challenges caused by Covid-19, addressing issues ranging from cash flow management to working with vendors and lenders.

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