Co-operative Action is funding a research project aimed at discovering if the Government is prejudiced against employee buy-outs.
The idea stems from when the Thames Gateway Co-operative tendered to manage the Dartford River Crossing, which seemed a tailor-made opportunity for the co-op, until it was denied the right to tender by the Highways Agency.
The workers at the co-op were already engaged on the project, and there was encouragement from all quarters.
"The ramifications need to be investigated," says Sarah Lees of Co-operative Action. "If there are barriers to a social enterprise entering a government tendering process then we need to understand what they are and why they are there.
"At the very least, the workers need to know what went wrong and how this can be avoided next time ? because, when the current contract expires in a few years time, they intend to tender again."
Co-op Action has awarded a £ 6,500 grant to the employee ownership body Job Ownership to produce a research document, organise a workshop and publicise the findings.
It will attempt to explain why the Government's Highways Agency denied the Thames Gateway Co-operative an opportunity to tender for the management of the Dartford River Crossing, last year.
Researchers will approach key players including the Department for Trade and Industry, the Labour Party and both site trade unions ? Unison and Amicus? to address the issue of workers running their own businesses.
"It's important to find out why employees were frozen out of the bidding process on this project," says Patrick Burns, executive director of Job Ownership.
"If there is negative perception about the capability of workers managing their own business then we need to get rid of it.
"There are now numerous examples of successful employee owned businesses, and employee buy-outs, so workers bidding to own the company they work for deserve a level playing field and fair treatment from Government and existing management.
"The research that Co-operative Action is funding will provide very important lessons for the future."
The Job Ownership report ? to be prepared by partners Ithaca Business Strategies ? will identify problems, mistakes and barriers and provide a series of recommendations so that other employee run enterprises have a defined route to follow, in future, and better chance of success when tendering for large government contracts.
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