von Alina Pogoda, Polish Green Network

The cooperative nature of the transformation

Miners, local governments and community organizations can host a just transition through cooperatives. 

Such modern cooperatives could be a breath of fresh air in the somewhat stagnant socio-economic landscape of our country. Just transition is a great undertaking, the success of which may also depend on bold and avant-garde actions. The cooperative technology center, CoopTech Hub, has just presented its latest report, Coop Transformation. The organization discussed the conclusions of the report at a meeting with local government officials from coal regions, mining trade unions and non-governmental organizations. Their proposal is a new look at the problem of creating jobs in coal regions. 

As the author of the report, Dr. Mateusz Piotrowski from the Patient Europe Association notes, all participants of the just transition differ in terms of their perspective and approach to this process. Environmental organizations look at transition with hope as an opportunity for a change that will reduce emissions and fight climate change, improve the quality of the air we breathe and improve the health of society. Understandably, local government officials and mining unions have more concerns. They fear that the suppression of coal mining will lead to the collapse of the regional economy. For local government officials it means a personal failure and a lost election. Trade unions are concerned about the specter of unemployment after the closure of mines and the deterioration of the situation of workers on the market. 

According to CoopTech Hub, many of these fears could be dispelled by the restart of the cooperative movement, once popular in Poland, the roots of which date back to the times of the partitions. Cooperatives were able to play an important economic and social role for us. They united people around common goals. Time is important to the success of a Just Transition. Therefore, the reconstruction of cooperatives should be initiated by local governments and qualified non-governmental organizations. Then, shares in such a „cooperative startup“ would be taken over by employees leaving the mining and coal power industry. One of the advantages of the cooperative transformation is the reduction of the risk associated with insufficient inflow of external investors. Coal regions will be competing hard for this capital. Not all of them can win, and some simply cannot afford enough incentives for investors. Supported by local governments and local cooperatives, they can be a great alternative and competition for external capital. Moreover, this kind of transformation protects against structural unemployment, strengthens the position of workers and ensures stable, good employment. According to many, the cooperative nature of the transformation may also prove better in achieving climate goals.

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