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Worker ownership

In this section we provide some basic information on worker co-ops - where the business is owned and controlled by those who know it best - the workers!

Group of young people with a laptop

What are worker co-ops?

Worker co-operatives are trading enterprises, owned and run by the people who work in them, who have an equal say in what the business does, and an equitable share in the wealth created from the products and services they provide. 

Worker co-operatives go further than giving workers a stake in the businesses they work in– the workers own the whole thing. They are not given a share of the profits – the profits are theirs to distribute how they want.

Sometimes workers share ownership and control with other stakeholders, like the local community, or customers in a hybrid model

In most businesses, workers feel they have little control. In a worker co-op, it’s the opposite – if you work hard and the business is successful, the benefits come back to you.
- Babs Macgregor, Greencity worker-owner
Babs McGregor of Greencity wholefoods driving a forklift
- Glasgow based Greencity Wholefoods are one of the largest worker co-ops in the UK

How do worker co-ops operate?

In a worker co-op, the co-op is run for the benefit of - you guessed it – people who do the work. Worker co-ops like Leeds Bread Co-op, Delta-T Devices and Creative Coop are controlled by the workers, who all participate in decision making.

These types of co-ops tend to have very flat structures and no hierarchy – some (but not all) even pay all the staff equally no matter what their role. But this doesn’t have to be the case as the model is very flexible.

The workers are involved in decision making and how any surplus is shared out or reinvested in the business.  How this works in practice depends on what the co-op has written in their rules.

What to know more?

Read our quick guide to setting up a worker co-op