The 2012/04/03 at 12:18
“For a number of years, we have had many more requests from business owners, namely 25-40-year-olds,” notes Pascal Trideau, General Manager of the General Confederation of SCOPs. This status represents a formula in sync with company expectations today, far from the financial capitalism model where shareholders hold full power. “Focusing generated wealth on shareholders alone and considering employees as no more than an adjustment tool is a model from another era, even if it is still widely practised today,” he continues.
At the end of 2010, there were 1,959 cooperative and participative company members of the Confederation, gathering 39,10 employees not including non-cooperative subsidiaries and over 50,000 counting these subsidiaries. This represents 3.5% growth compared with 2009. SCOPs have been developing at a constant rate in the last 15 years. “There is strong attraction for this type of company, on the part of the media but also economics researchers. Globally, the cooperative model smoothes out more inequalities and thus represents a fairer alternative, to which many managers and employees aspire,” indicates Pascal Trideau. The General Confederation of SCOPS is in charge of lobbying before public powers. The movement comprises 13 regional unions covering the whole of the French territory. The Confederation assembles 3 trade federations: SCOPs active in public works and construction (BTP), industry and communications.
A SCOP is an SA (anonymous company) or SARL (private limited liability company) with two major specificities. Firstly, it has a democratic form of leadership based on the majority holding of capital by employees. This does not mean that all employees are partners even if there is a membership rate of almost 80%. Involvement is financial as well as managerial. Operation respects the principle of “one person equal to one voice” at general assemblies and elections for leaders. The spread of created wealth is the SCOP’s second key pillar. Unlike classic companies where this issue depends on the desire of shareholders alone, in this case the law imposes a legal framework: at least 16% of wealth should be left in the company and a minimum of 25% goes towards employees in the form of profit sharing. On average, SCOPs leave 40% in the company, which means that management largely preserves the economic health of the organisations. “This culture helps going through difficult periods better for these companies base themselves on a high proportion of capital stock,” specifies Pascal Trideau. The result can be summed up by a telling figure: the survival rate after 3 years of existence as a SCOP is 74%.
For strategic decisions, all partners are solicited, which implies that training and pedagogy are necessary. “The necessity for employees to clearly understand an analysis of the company’s situation and its forecasts is indispensable. In addition, SCOP leaders should be driven by a desire to share decisions as well as strategic options. This work is not done exclusively on the day of the assembly. Democracy is organised on an everyday basis. If a company envisages an external growth operation, employees must be informed and consulted very early on in the upstream process,” illustrates the General Manager.
The Confederation expects public powers to support the development of SCOPs as well as important reforms. “Employees should have a right to have a first say when a company is being sold and to have the option to make an offer, like the tenant of an apartment when its owner decides to sell,” considers Pascal Trideau. There may also be call for investment funds to be involved. “In a company with 50 employees worth 10 million euros, employees of course do not have the resources to take charge of the operation alone. In this case, it is interesting to draw on financial setups in which employees represent the majority and where a minority fund brings cash with the aim of helping out the majority share of the employees. The latter can then reimburse the sum over a long-term period,” suggests the General Manager. In certain streams, the SCOP status may help keep a grip on a certain number of strategic companies. The SCOP is a tool that supports economic patriotism.
French presidential campaign: the SCOP General Confederation appeals to the candidates
“Every day, employees (in France, editorial note) take their destinies into their hands by setting up or taking over companies and making them prosper together. The 2000 SCOPs (Sociétés Coopératives et Participatives or cooperative and participative companies) are proof that economic democracy yields results,” writes Patrick Lenancker, President of the SCOP General Confederation in a letter addressed to the French presidential election candidates publicised on 12 March. This letter includes proposals for developing this business model in France. Measures requested include: the setting up of a zero-per cent interest loan accessible to “any citizen setting up or taking over a company”, facilitation of “conditions of eligibility for the ARCE (a subsidy towards business creation or takeover”, the creation of an “investment fund specialised in the takeover of intermediate-sized businesses”, as well as the adoption of “a new status for shareholding employee cooperatives allowing them to become owners of their companies in the space of five to ten years”. The SCOP General Confederation here briefly presents the stances of the candidates on the SCOPs, as noted during the Forum organised by the CEGES (Conseil des Employeurs de l’Économie Sociale or Council of Social Economy Employers), on 2 March in Paris.