The Co-operative Women’s Guild will cease to be a national organisation next June. At a special general meeting in Coventry on 6 October a proposal to dissolve, put forward by the guild’s national executive committee (NEC), was carried by 27 votes to 3.
The change will come into effect on 25 June 2016. Local branches will be able to continue their activities as they wish.
Some 165 guildswomen, representing 30 branches from across the country, attended the meeting. Each branch delegated one member to vote on its behalf.
On behalf of the NEC, general secretary Colette Harber said dissolving the guild as a national organisation meant there would be no guild rule book, no NEC and no head office. However, local branches could continue to meet as and whenever they wished.
She said: “Some independent co-operative societies have already held discussions with members of the NEC and expressed a desire to continue supporting their local branches in whatever way they can.” Further discussions would take place in the light of the SGM vote, she added.
Guildswomen’s questions and comments included matters relating to the desire for local branches to continue, preservation of the guild’s banners and branch chains for future generations to view and a desire to leave a specific legacy for women working in the co-operative movement. There was no decision on the legacy of the guild, but there will be consultation on this with all branches during the coming months.
The meeting also discussed the Co-operative Party’s emergency motion to offer solidarity and practical support to the guild. The motion, which was supported by the party’s NEC, was carried after a number of delegates expressed support for the guild.
It was agreed that the guild’s final national meeting in June 2016 would be an auspicious day for all guildswomen, and one of remembrance of the guild’s proud heritage. Pauline Lintern, national president of the guild, lit the peace candle and expressed her heartfelt thanks to everyone for attending the meeting. In closing it, she said the day had been very emotional and thanked everyone for supporting the NEC in this “very difficult decision”.