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Photo by Clayton Cardinalli on Unsplash

It’s an all-too common story: a good business collapses and good jobs are lost because of the short-term thinking of distant owners and shareholders. And when companies close their doors, it’s workers and communities who depend on them who lose out most.

But we know this story could have a different ending, and we don’t have to look too far away for inspiration. Over the past thirty years in Italy, a quiet economic revolution has been taking place – with results we can learn from here in the UK.

In Italy, when a business is at risk of collapsing, workers have the right to buyout all or part of the business – with financial support and specialist advice from the Government. This is known as the ‘Marcora law’: named after the former Italian industry minister, Giovanni Marcora, who established the worker buyout system over thirty years ago to divert the money spent on unemployment to retain jobs and continue economic activity.

The results speak for themselves. Between 2007 and 2013 alone, the law preserved hundreds of businesses previously at risk of closure as worker co-operatives, and saved over 13,000 jobs. Crucially, it paid for itself, with an economic return of over six times the capital invested by the Government.

These buyouts are successful because, as the co-operative movement has long known, workers know their workplaces best and have the biggest stake in its success. Worker buyouts ensure the new owners have a genuine interest in the business’ sustainable success instead of prioritising short-term, quick gains.

That’s why on Wednesday, I’ll be holding a debate in Parliament on the need for a British Marcora law. The Co-operative Party have long championed the need for a worker buyout law, arguing for its ability to widen ownership in our economy and reduce inequality by giving workers a real stake and say in their businesses. With the economic effects of the pandemic still hurting communities across the country, there has never been a more important time for the Government to consider this issue in Westminster.

A Marcora law wouldn’t just save businesses and jobs. Over time, it would have a transformative effect on the economy too. We know that economies with larger co-operative sectors tend to be more equitable and share wealth more fairly. That’s why the Co-operative Party is looking to double the size of the co-operative sector, so more people have a fair share of our economy’s rewards.

As we do our best to look forward and move on from the worst days of the pandemic, we are presented with a unique chance to do things differently in our economy. A Marcora law is just one of the ways we could build a fairer, more democratic economy. Now is the time to rewrite the rules, and be inspired by the best of the bold ideas in our movement.