Workers’ co-operatives: building a brighter economic future
Encouraging economic development and the independence of workers through co-operatives is an important strategy for the Tamil Nadu Labour Union (TNLU).
Credit unions encourage members to save for the establishment of small businesses, providing low interest loans. Other co-operatives focus on the production and marketing of local products, such as the Madurai Women’s Handloom Weavers Co-operative, while the Labour Contract Co-operatives have enabled the quarry workers to tender directly for government and other contracts. In this way a greater proportion of the financial gains are captured for the workers themselves.
But the TNLU has not limited itself to the more familiar worker co-operatives such as credit unions and production co-operatives. In keeping with its inclusive way of operating, the union has set up housing cooperatives for women, and also cooperatives for particularly marginalised groups, who for various reasons may be excluded from other sources of support.
The Women’s Housing Co-operatives aim not only to provide assets but also to give security to women through home ownership or rental housing in the woman’s name. In a country where women have few rights traditionally this is a significant improvement in status. The first of the Special Purpose Co-operatives was established for hijra, or transgender, women who are extremely vulnerable to exploitation.
The TNLU project leaders, Manohari and Edward Doss, must be congratulated for all that they achieve for their members and the union’s sister organisation, the Women’s Development Resource Centre.