The first cross-community workers co-operative in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Cleaning Co-operative, is one of the case studies at the launches of the Co-operative Enterprise Hub both in Derry and Belfast on the 2nd and the 3rd October respectively.
The Belfast Cleaning Co-operative are a group of professional cleaners who came together to answer a request from MVT Awards in November last year. The coop grew out of a project within Trademark, the anti-sectarian unit of the ICTU, who had decided to promote the idea of interface worker cooperatives as a means to both create employment and resist and challenge sectarianism. .
At last year’s much vaunted MTV showcase in Belfast where Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber took the headlines, a perhaps more significant event was taking place back stage as a group of worker-owners from the Falls and Shankill quietly and doggedly set about establishing Belfast’s first Interface Worker Cooperative.
Since then it has won other contracts, including this year’s Tenants Vital gig with the Foo Fighters and Stone Roses, it cleans the offices of the ICTU in Belfast and other union organisations. The BCC is an anti-sectarian workers cooperative, it is unionised, it is worker controlled, it is democratic and the workers pay themselves above the industry average whilst re-investing profits in their future.
With the support and expertise of the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, the “Belfast Cleaning Society – A Workers Co-operative” was legally set up and registered. Alice McLarnon, one of the founder members, said “It was hard work at first, taking all those decisions together, but being a workers co-op made our business stronger. All members have equal say and this is in our co-operative rules but we are also very proud that we are women from the West of the city from both side of the divide”.
On the 2ndOctober, the Co-operative Enterprise Hub is officially launching in Northern Ireland, Derry on the 2nd and Belfast on the 3rd. This is an innovative service dedicated exclusively to co-operative development with free expert advice, training and access to finance to help set up and grow co-operative businesses.
At the launches, case studies from Cloughfern Community Credit Union, Just Books Collective and the Causeway Coast Artists Co-operative will be presented. For more information and/or attend the event please visit http://nicoop-forum.co.uk or phone 028 90230296.