The last few months have been significant for the union/climate-cooperative movement in Australia. This movement looks to respond to the crises of dangerous global warming, unprecedented inequality and sustained democratic deficit. Workers and communities are harnessing cooperative structures, ecological principles and a “solidarity” economy, as part of this bottom-up reclaiming and rejuvenation of the commons.
Earthworker cooperative factory launched
After many years of community-led effort, the Earthworker Energy Manufacturing Cooperative has started manufacturing household renewable energy technology in Morwell. The public can start ordering products now. The worker-run factory, that is 100 per cent union, aims to create dignified and sustainable livelihoods as part of a ‘just transition’ for Victoria’s Latrobe Valley community as the region’s power industry changes.
Made in Morwell: The Earthworker Cooperative
“We are building examples of more just and sustainable workplaces and economies – solutions that can help us deal with climate change and economic resilience right here in the Valley, and across the country,” said Earthworker Cooperative Secretary and Morwell resident Dan Musil.
On 28 June, Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, toured the new cooperative factory as part of the official launch of the Latrobe Valley Community Power Hub. The first Latrobe Valley Community Power Hub project is a community bulk-buy program for solar hot water systems. These will be manufactured at the Earthworker Energy factory in Morwell and will create jobs while helping residents and businesses to cut their energy bills.
“The Latrobe Valley has directly experienced the failure of privatisation, with the rapid unplanned closure of Hazelwood Power Station a recent example,” said Dan Musil. “Communities around the world are reversing electricity industry privatisation. We are putting power back into the hands of workers and communities, in ways that allow us to fairly address the crisis of climate change and household cost of living.”
The ‘Made in Morwell’ premium solar hot water systems are made to last and cut household energy use by one third. Earthworker is talking with several unions about opportunities for the products to be included in Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) and is looking at attracting further capital in order to upscale production.
Other community enterprises in the Earthworker Cooperative network include:
Redgum Cleaning Cooperative: offering 100% union green cleaning services across Melbourne – see http://redgumcleaning.coop/
How can you help?
- Pre-order your premium quality Earthworker solar hot water products. earthworkerenergy.coop (or for Gippsland residents: www.gippybulkbuy.com.au)
- Become an Earthworker member: http://earthworkercooperative.com.au/membership/
- Get your union or environment group involved in the project, email: [email protected]
Members of Cooperative Power with author Tom Reddington
Union cooperative electricity retailer established
Cooperative Power is a newly formed cooperative for Australia's energy sector. This new model takes the power back from huge energy corporations, for the benefit of people and our planet. It's a new way for people to buy energy and have a say in how it's created and how much it costs.
Cooperative Power is a way for us to come together and create an energy sector that is clean and sustainable, affordable and democratic.
“Workers have the solutions, and through coming together through Cooperative Power we can take back the commons, combat cost of living pressures and ensure an inclusive transition to clean energy for all workers,” said Godfrey Moase, Assistant General Secretary of the National Union of Workers, co-founder and chairperson of Cooperative Power Australia.
Australia’s big three energy corporations fuel dangerous global warming and exacerbate skyrocketing inequality and civil society paralysis with reckless abandon. Cooperative Power provides an avenue for workers and diverse communities to come together and organise for the world they want.
Over the coming months, as part of the first phase of roll out, Cooperative Power will offer affordable electricity to its members across south east Queensland, with households expected to save between $300 – 700 off their yearly bills.
Cooperative Power is structured as an enterprise cooperative, which means that its members are Unions, community groups, NGOs, and other cooperatives. Cooperative Power services will be restricted to the rank-and-file members of such democratic associations. Currently the Cooperative has access to over 75, 000 highly engaged members across its founding organisations.
- National Union of Workers – General branch
- National Union of Workers – Victoria Branch
- Australian Services Union – Victoria and Tasmania Branch
- National Tertiary Education Union – Victoria Branch
- Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA
- Earthworker Cooperative
- Energy Innovation Cooperative
- Voices of the Valley
For more information you can visit the website: www.cooperativepower.org.au
Or email Tom at: [email protected]
Tom Reddington is a SEARCH member, Co-founder of Cooperative Power, and works at APHEDA as the organiser for climate justice and energy democracy.