Elland based worker co-operative Suma Wholefoods has had plenty to celebrate!
The business has been crowned Co-operative of the Year 2014, and members of staff were also marking Employee Ownership Day, and Co-operatives Fortnight, with a visit from TUC president, Mohammed Taj.
Held annually, Employee Ownership Day demonstrates how co-operatives and trade unions can work together effectively. Co-operatives Fortnight is the co-operative sector’s annual awareness campaign, aiming to help people become more familiar with co-operatives in their local area and beyond.
During Mohammed Taj’s visit, Suma’s workforce was also joined by Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, who presented them with the prestigious Co-operative of the Year award.
Last year, Suma delivered its best trading performance for 35 years, turning over £34 million with 140 workers.
A wage rise and a substantial bonus were enjoyed by workers and ten full – time jobs were created.
Ed Mayo said:
“Not all employee owned businesses give their employees a sense of ownership.
“In some cases, perhaps coming out of the public sector, employee ownership may not even have been chosen by the employees or is held on their behalf rather than being accountable to them in a democratic way.
“Suma, as a leading worker co-operative, shows what the power of true employee ownership can be, lifting the bar on business innovation and performance.
“As another successful Co-operatives Fortnight draws to a close, it’s been great to visit Suma on Employee Ownership Day. I would also like to congratulate Suma on their award as Co-operative of the Year, 2014.”
Co-operatives Fortnight is organised by Co-operatives UK, the apex body that represents all of the UK’s 6,000 co-operative businesses.
Commenting on his visit, TUC president Mohammed Taj said:
“Traditional corporate governance has been found wanting in the wake of the global financial crisis, the time is ripe to explore alternatives that give the workers who have a genuine long term interest and stake in the business to have more voice in that business.
“Co-operatives can be a great way to give workers a voice and a stake in their company.
“And, of course, trade unions are also a way that working people can make themselves heard.
“So it is great to see a co-operative like Suma, working in partnership with their union BFAWU, to ensure that empowering workers means giving them a stake in the company as well as their own voice from the shop floor.”
During the day, Mohammed Taj met Suma staff as well as representatives from the local region Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) office and BFAWU general secretary Ronnie Draper.
Guests were treated to a vegetarian lunch, which staff take turns to prepare during the week, in keeping with the co-operative ethos.
Suma Wholefoods spokesperson Bob Cannell said:
“We were pleased Taj could witness first-hand the great jobs we are creating and that excellent wages and job security are a business priority for us.
“Suma has had a BFAWU branch for 30 years now and around 80 per cent of our worker members are union members.
“Union advice and support has proved invaluable over the years, for individual workers and for our co-operative, demonstrating that worker co-operatives and trade unions can work together for mutual benefit; it has certainly worked for us.
“It is an honour to be recognised by Co-operatives UK as Co-operative of the Year.
“This is testament to the hard work and dedication of our worker members and we are on course for another successful year for our co-operative and business.”