What is at stake at GKN Florence? And why now?
On 9 July 2021, the automotive factory GKN Florence made the Italian news: on that day, one email fired all of its 422 workers. This sparked a struggle that will go down in history: the factory takeover by the GKN workers’ permanent assembly, the Insorgiamo (Let’s rise up) slogan, the convergence between labour and environmental struggles, and much more.
The first in a new series from the makers of SHIFT CHANGE, WEconomics: Italy reports on the extensive and innovative cooperative economy in the region around Bologna.
In Italy around ten per cent of the economy (gross domestic product) is organised through co-operatives, with around eleven per cent of the workforce employed by co-ops, including many large-scale worker co-ops of course.
The response of co-ops in Italy to the health, social and economic crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to draw on their values, for sure, but also to find ways to co-operate between co-operatives.
Italy has numerous traditions of cooperatives (Ammirato, 1994, 2018). In particular, the Italian coop sector evolved from both secular liberal thought, socialist and communist traditions, as well as from Catholic social thought. They have managed to become a class of principles-based enterprises strongly embedded in all sectors of the Italian economy.
Social co-ops arose in Italy in the late seventies following the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients and the dissatisfaction of caregivers and families with the quality of care provided by the state. In theory, Italian public bodies were expected to provide key social services. Indeed, charitable and private social care organisations were taken over and integrated into public bodies under legislation dating back to 1890. Local authorities were at the core of education, health and social services.