COVID-19 coop response

Wednesday, 1 April 2020 - 2:00pm

Update 08.05: view a selection of actions 

Update 21.04: Position paper on EU response to crisis

Read the President's and Director's message here. 

By now, necessary measures have been taken by most of the European countries Governments, aiming to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus. Though these decisions have greatly affected our daily lives, we all count these actions important to alleviate the toll to be paid to the epidemic in human lives.

It will have consequences on the social and economic life of every European citizen. Like many others, cooperatives and cooperators will be affected. Solidarity being our core cooperative value, we are sure that though cooperatives will bear the consequences, however they will also adapt to the new current situation looking for best solution regarding economic and human impact.

Read the President's and Director's message here. 

A network of cooperation

Considering the mission of Cooperatives Europe, we ask our members inform us of any useful information or request, be it physical or financial, that we would present to the European Institutions to back our effort, and helping us to overcome this extraordinary period.

Moreover, we propose Cooperative Europe as a hub to exchange good practices which are to be shared with colleagues on the way to express cooperative solidarity.

Assessments of the impact, initiatives and needs may be sent to Director Agnes Mathis at a.mathis@coopseurope.coop

We thank you for keeping cooperation alive on a European level, but most importantly, in your communities. 

Below you may find just a short summary of some of the actions and impact that cooperatives are facing in Europe. The document will be updated with the received contributions on our website.
 

Belgium

Initiatives & needs

  • Partago cooperative car-sharing and Voedselteam- network of local food teams and sustainable producers – join forces to deliver fresh farm food for citizens.
  • Pwiic coop sharing economy platform provides service to Multipharma pharmacies chain to help communities provide help to those in need, available at multipharma.pwiic.com/fr
     

Bulgaria

Initiatives & needs 

  • CCU established online platform COOP CARE, through which cooperative organizations in Bulgaria:

- report updated information for the COVID-19 spreading;
- request fast delivery of essential food products with COOP brand products– tea, mineral water, salt, sugar, rice, olive oil, flour;
- request fast delivery of personal protective equipment – face masks, hand gloves, disinfectants.

  • Produces informational material on staying safe
  • VIDEO AVAILABLE HERE Continued delivery services with Coop Italy. Coop Bulgaria extends its gratitude to COOP Italy, which nevertheless the critical situation in the country and constraints on logistics in Europe, due to measures imposed, in the beginning of last week delivered to Central Cooperative Union disinfectants and cleaning detergents, which will be delivered to the cooperative organizations in the country.
     

Czech Republic 

Impact

  • Hundreds of millions worth losses due to the quarantine and the measures declared by the State (some operations had to be closed, a number of workers had to remain in closed quarantine, the supplies of materials for production from China and Italy stagnate, sales routes are sluggish.

Initiatives & needs

  • Concrete EU financial support of various types,
  • The Cooperative Association of the Czech Republic has asked for FFP3 respirator masks
     

Finland

Impact

  • The most urgent issue (also affecting cooperatives) is the financial crisis of businesses
  • Platform economy businesses have seen a big growth yet they are concentrated  on profit only and do not treat workers fairly. Cooperative alternatives and support to coops platform economy is thus particularly important. 

Initiatives & needs

  • State owned organizations provide services for companies under COVID-19 pandemic including grants, loans and guarantees. Most of these are also available for cooperatives.
  • Supporting worker-by-outs of companies is now also an important topic in general.
  • Pellervo to release communications of how platform cooperatives could be an important tool during the crisis to make sure workers get a fair share now and in the future. 

Other COVID-19 related initiatives include:

Pellervo has produced material on its website regarding:

- Cooperative meetings in an emergency caused by the coronavirus (remote participation, postponing a meeting etc.
- Financing problems of SME cooperatives in face of the corona crisis – a list of all the relevant organisations that can help financially

Webinars
- The biggest yearly event Pellervo Day was supposed to take place April 2nd but instead a free Live Event will be organised on the internet that has all the same key-notes and speakers booked for the actual day – with a lot more participants this way (close to 400)

- Planning a few other webinars tackling the current issues SME cooperatives are facing (for instance financial management and governance

 

France
Initiatives & needs

  • Agricultural cooperatives deliver protective medical equipment to the hospital of Gisors
  • Up Group to produce service vouchers for homeless people that can be used in affiliated establishment offering hygiene and food services
  • French co-operative banks around Paris have opened up lines of credit worth €100 million for hospitals and healthcare centres.
     

 

Germany 

Impact

The current lockdown due to the COVID-19 crisis is severely affecting German SMEs and thus especially their employees, cooperative members and affiliated families. 
 

In these challenging times, the advantages of cooperation are key to help coping with the crisis in all its facets. As one strong player in this regard, the German cooperative system, composed of cooperative enterprises and federations in the various sectors (banking, agriculture, small-scale industry, commodity, retail and services, consumers, renewable energy, and housing) is both subject to constraints as well as responding dynamically. Cooperatives, many created in times of need a long time ago, show that solidarity is part of our economic activity today. They prove that cooperatives are resilient to crises as they adapt to new situations, finding innovative solutions to serve their members and customers.

Initiatives & needs

DGRV initiatives

It is a strength of our link-up system that the DGRV as apex and the federations of all cooperative groups closely coordinate activities, thus safeguarding the interests of our cooperative enterprises, their staff, and members.

  • DGRV’s successful advocacy ensured that helpful regulations have been incorporated into the law to mitigate the consequences of COVID 19 for cooperatives. Measures taken ensure that the organs of cooperatives are able to act in times of limited assembly possibilities.
     
  • Furthermore, DGRV is providing support and advice services to its members in all relevant fields (especially legal and tax issues).
     
  • The German financial group actively supports especially those micro, small and medium enterprises which are clients and/or customers of the 841 Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken (cooperative banks). Information about and access to special support programmes by the federal states, the Federal Government of Germany, and special banks like KfW Bank is provided to the customers. The cooperative banks ensure that applications for emergency aids which need to be channelled through the banks are being processed immediately. This significantly helps both SMEs and the individual member to quickly get access to Corona support programmes.

Further examples of helpful measures taken by individual cooperatives are i. a.:

  • R+V, the cooperative insurer, together with the 841 Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken and the DZ Bank offers small and medium-sized companies the opportunity to offer vouchers for their goods and services. The vouchers are backed by a guarantee worth a high double-digit million contribution to a possible insolvency. This reliefs SMEs and enables them to further employ their employees.
     
  • In order to relief the economic pressure from individual members who need to pay back a loan, the cooperative bank Volksbank Cologne-Bonn defers those loans in order to meet liquidity shortages and thus relieving members in the current economic crisis.
     
  • Equally, many housing cooperatives defer rent payments for private and commercial tenants who are economically affected by the Pandemic and thus are threatened by liquidity shortages.
     
  • Some cooperatives have initiated an overtime fund for employees who work in a home office due to the Corona crisis and who also have to cope with home care for children or grandparents. Employees donate their own overtime into a ‘pot, from which colleagues who need additional time can help themselves.
     
  • Staff and shop owners of the 2 mayor food retailer groups with cooperative roots, Edeka and REWE (joint market share 43 %, approx. 106 billion turn-over, >750,000 staff), continue to service millions of clients on a daily business under the presently very difficult health-safety conditions, helping to cope with extreme demands especially for some product lines, and taking into respect specific needs of people adhering to risk-groups like elderly people.
     
  • German co-operative banks have led on increasing the limit for contactless payment for customers to 50 euros – practical and helpful.
     

Italy

Impact

  • Workers at risk could approach 270,000. Social cooperatives, for example, pointed out that 200,000 workers could be at risk only in their sector. 26,000 workers at risk in cooperatives that provide catering and cleaning contract services; over 21,000 in cooperatives engaged in tourism, entertainment and management of artistic and cultural heritage, in sport. In difficulties are also logistics and transport cooperatives, where over 18,000 workers operate.

Initiatives & needs 

  • The Alliance of Italian Cooperatives, in line with other organizations representing companies and trade unions, made a request to the Government to identify support measures for the economy
  • A decree was approved by the Council of Ministers of 16th March which allocates €25 billion of total resources, 10 of which for interventions aimed at supporting the economy
  • Taxi cooperatives offering free transportation to over 65s
  • Cooperatives offering free grocery deliveries to over 65s
  • Solidarity networks activated ensuring care to people in difficulties and the elderly living alone
     
  • Italian cooperatives from different regions have started the production of masks in special fabric for the contrast and containment of the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Masks are made by people with frailties, coming from situations of drug addiction, former prisoners, migrants.
     
  • Coop Italy announced that it will block the prices of 18.000 products for 2 months, until the 31st of May. The move will involve both Coop own-brands and products from other brands (info here). In addition to that, Coop Italy is delivering for free to the elderly and those in difficulty. Recently, it also launched the ‘suspended grocery shopping’. Inspired by the Italian tradition of the “suspended coffee”, i.e. the advance purchase of a cup of coffee for someone who needs it, Coop Italy introduced the opportunity for those willing, to make a donation of 1 euro or 100 points from the membership card to the foundation “The Heart Melts”, which will double the value of the donation. The money collected in this way will be used to buy groceries which will be then distributed to the people in need (more info here). Moreover, it organised the delivery of medical equipment from its subsidiary in Hong-Kong.  This has been possible thanks to its own purchasing company - Coop Far East – which is precisely located there. By using this channel, Coop is among the first companies to start the supply of sanitary materials for its staff and for the Italian public authorities (info here).

    And many more


     

Israel

Initiatives & needs 

AJEEC-NISPED: 

  •  Awareness-raising Arabic campaign for the Corona pandemic towards the Arab-Bedouin society in the Negev
  •  Emergency teams and volunteers are helping mitigate the spread of Coronavirus in the Bedouin community by distributing protective equipment, disinfectants, and food products.
  • AJEEC’s Knowledge Center team has developed online content with activities that are uniquely curated for children from the Arab-Bedouin society, who are currently without an educational framework.
     

Poland

Initiatives & needs 

The National Cooperative Council  on 24th March, 2020 made an appeal to the President of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Andrzej Duda, to adopt solutions to protect the activities of cooperative enterprises.

Among the solutions proposed by NCC there are:

  • Exemption of cooperatives  and their employees (including cooperatives running joint agricultural holdings) from the obligation to pay social security contributions and simplification of bureaucratic procedures in this regard among others  by allowing to submit  applications via e-mail.
  • Exemptions of  cooperatives from other taxes and levies in Q2, depending on the % loss of income.
  • Allocating part of the resources from EU programmes to crisis management measures in the economy and the agricultural sector as well as taking into account the specificities of the various cooperative sectors in any anti-crisis measures.
  • Introducing simplifications and facilitations regarding VAT system.

And many more (available to read upon request).

Results

  • On 31st  March, 2020 the National Cooperative Council received a response from the Chancellery of the Prime Minister to the appeal . The solutions proposed by the National Cooperative Council – concerning covering all cooperative sectors with support – were forwarded by the Prime Minister's Office to key ministries implementing solutions of the “anti-crisis shield”  (i.e. a set of solutions prepared by the government to protect the Polish state and citizens from the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic).
  • One of the provisions of the “shield” has already introduced amendments to the act “Cooperative Law”  which enable remote attendance in all statutory meetings of cooperatives.
     

Russia

Initiatives & needs

As the situation with pandemia differs in various regions of Russia, the most common practices used by our regional cooperative unions are as follows:

  • delivery of basic goods and medicine to elderly and disabled people;
  • delivery of essential goods to people living in remote areas and rural areas in self-isolation by means of ‘avtolavka’ (COOP food trucks);
  • distance learning for students of educational organisations of consumer cooperatives; 
  • regional cooperative unions work in close cooperation with regional emergency response centers to assist in preventing the spreading of virus, contribute to stable food supply and take part in regular monitoring of prices;
  • #простоработаем (simply working), launched to demonstrate that we continue working and no panic should occur (e.g. simply producing food; simply delivering basic goods and medicine; simply teaching students online, etc.). Some regional cooperative  unions together with local authorities organize a kind of press-tours, aimed at showing citizens that there are enough products to provide stable food supply;
  • a number of cooperative enterprises in various regions started producing masks and disinfectants for local citizens;
  • cooperative shops continue working strictly following instructions on safety; besides, online platforms are used to take orders for basic products and provide delivery of goods;
  • food service companies (public catering) take orders for grocery baskets and ready meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) at reasonable prices. In a number of regions they provide meals for medical workers and other frontline workers.

 

Spain

Initiatives & needs

  • Som Energia offering to reduce contracted power without any costs
  • Spanish cooperatives Mondragon Assembly and Bexen Medical to produce 10 million masks for the medical sector
  • Lionel Messi helped to lead a 70% pay cut by players at FC Barcelona, the iconic football co-op, in order to ensure that lower-paid workers receive full pay and protection from being laid off.

Measures:

From Catalonia, the Confederation of Cooperatives of Catalonia as a representative organization in coordination with associates, the federations of cooperatives (second level structures),  the following measures have been implemented:

  • Free legal and economic advice to cooperatives.
  • We have opened a solidarity contingency fund to offer immediate liquidity.
  • We have opened a line of guarantees to access higher funding.
  • We are monitoring the social and economic costs.
  • We have opened online training sessions for co-operatives.
  • We are energizing a solidarity group to temporarily reconvert the economic activity of some cooperatives and employ staff, currently unemployed, to do social emergency tasks.
  • We have implemented regulatory changes to facilitate the corporate management of cooperatives during the alarm period.

Some of the initiatives organized by cooperatives are:

  • Courier co-ops distribute health care material to co-ops who continue to care for the needy (children, adults and the elderly).
  • The agricultural cooperatives collaborate in the disinfection of installations and streets of the cities.
  • Bookstores have opened a collective web portal to centralize online sales distribution.
  • Care Centers have opened an online service to attend immediate needs: psychological care, support for families, care for children and the elderly living alone...
  • Ethical banking offers measures to help individuals and social enterprises.
  • Technology, industrial and educational co-operatives are producing medical supplies through 3D printing and others.
  • School cooperatives are offering schooling through ICT.
  • Agro-ecological consumer cooperatives have unified the distribution of food in a portal.
  • Eroski has established priority entrance to healthcare workers, seniors, pregnant women and people with disabilities, as well as organised an area dedicated to transporters to allow them to take a shower and disinfect their hands (info here & here)

 

Sweden

Initiatives & needs

  • Coop Sweden has stepped in to support local producers by promptly establishing an even closer collaboration with its more than 650 Swedish producers and allowing them to place an increased share of their products across the coop stores (info here). The Swedish Coop has also extended and added delivery times dedicated for seniors, the goal being to gradually increase capacity and geographic coverage (info here).
  • Co-op insurers in Sweden have placed investments of US$235 million in new bonds to finance public health actions not just in the Baltic region but worldwide. Ylva Wessén, CEO, promises that “Folksam Group is actively seeking investment opportunities that alleviate the social and economic consequences of the coronavirus.”
     

Turkey

Impact

As of 4 May 2019, the number of Covid 19 patients in Turkey is 127,659 people, the death toll is 3.461 people and the number of patients recovering is 68.166 people. Capacity problems do not appear in hospitals in the country at the moment. Medical supplies are largely sufficient. Even aid is being made to other countries. However, there is a shortage of supplies in some health centres and there are problems due to policy and application errors in the supply of masks used by the public for individual protection.

General Assemblies of cooperatives were postponed by the relevant ministries to the end of July. After this date, the co-operative general assemblies were given permission to be held within 3 months.

Although the work of Forestry cooperatives in forests was slowed down to some extent, the necessary health protection measures were taken and production was continued to the extent of the possibilities. Cooperatives supported the partners in agricultural production and plant and animal production.

Initiatives & needs

  • Pankobirlik is an agricultural cooperative in Turkey where producers produce sugar beet are partners. During the fight against Covid 19 pandemic, it produces alcohol and disinfectant and meets a significant part of the country's needs. It also has a university providing education in many fields, mainly agriculture and food which takes part in the program to combat Covid 19 pandemic and studies are being carried out on developing vaccines, producing diagnostic kits and reference materials.
  • Agricultural Credit Cooperative (Tarım Kredi) is a cooperative that provides its partners with input and marketing support related to agricultural production, primarily agricultural credit. Agriculture Credit Partners ' Covid 19 Pandemic delayed payments on loan debts due to taking into account delays in loan debt payments.
  • Eczakoop (Pharmacycoop) is a Health Cooperative in which pharmacists who own a pharmacy are partners. Eczakoop partners in this period need disinfectant, mask, alcohol and all kinds of medical and medical materials are engaged in the supply. 
  • Gülbirlik is an agricultural sales cooperative in which rose producers are partners. As a disinfectant in the factories owned by Covid 19 pandemic during the struggle period, Cologne and liquid soap production increased to meet the increasing need for Cologne and soap.
  • Antbirlik is a cooperative in Antalya where it is a partner of cotton producers, which processes cotton and serves its partners in various fields. It distributes masks and gloves to its partners in Antbirlik region and to the public.
  • Women's cooperatives are involved in the production of masks to meet the needs of the people in the regions where they are established. They took part in helping the elderly and disabled in their localities.
  • Consumption cooperatives have started to implement programs to meet the needs of their partners and the public, and to help the sick and elderly with their food needs.
  • Social cooperatives try to continue their work on the sick, elderly, disabled and child care issues.
  • Agricultural and consumption cooperatives have played an effective role in agricultural production and food marketing within the framework of national policies to ensure that the country does not face a problem with food supply and security.

 

Ukraine

Impact

  • The activity of the Consumer Cooperation of Ukraine in conditions of quarantine is aimed to provide all necessary goods to consumers of COOP stores, to maintain good health of its employees, especially the category which is most in contact with a large number of people, by virtue of the responsibilities, to help lonely people and those in need, and promote the guidance of the authorities concerning the strict observance of quarantine by the citizens in every possible way.

Social initiatives

  • The bread in the bakeries of the consumer cooperative system bakes according to the traditional recipe, which is sold at prices below cost. In this way, the most vulnerable people are able to buy delicious bread at reduced prices; 
  • In Coop-markets, prices are set at the level of those that were 2-3 months ago on the main set of groceries. When purchasing goods for cooperative trading network, they refuse from services of those suppliers which raise prices unreasonably; 
  • Coop markets often lower their prices, understanding the decline of consumer’s purchasing power; 
  • On the eve of Easter holidays, priests were invited to the bakeries of the consumer cooperative, which consecrated the Easter cakes which were baked there. In this way, the call by the Ukrainian authorities to encourage people not to leave houses during the Easter holidays was supported; 
  • Delivery of the most necessary products to lonely, elderly people was organized in some regions; 
  • Together with the local government COOP Ukraine develops and make a strategic stock of the necessary products. 
  • The Chairman of the Regional Consumer Union (member of COOP Ukraine), bought a ventilator (device which provides mechanical ventilation to a patient's lungs) for the district clinic at his own expense. 
     

Initiatives in the regard of employees protection of the consumer cooperative system and Coop market customers:

  • In all supermarkets, employees are provided with necessary safety equipment, the number of people in the shops is strictly monitored;
  • Coop markets buy motor sprayers for sanitary treatment of the shop premises with a special disinfectant solution;
  • In the event of an employee's illness with COVID-19, the governing bodies of the consumer cooperative system, together with a professional trade union, provide one-off targeted treatment assistance;
  • Coop markets procure thermal imagers to measure people's body temperature in a non-contact way, to prevent those who was affected from entering stores. A single-use gloves and disinfectants are provided for customers everywhere;
  • By regional boards of consumer unions have been made a decision on providing one-time financial assistance for those who work on the frontline today - salesman, cashiers, bakers and others;
  • COOP Ukraine is actively implements online trading at the same prices as in other stores, and it’s delivery to minimize leaving the houses of rural residents in a number of regions

 

United Kingdom

Initiatives & needs

  • Cooperatives UK is assisting it’s members with advice on HR, governance and latest governance measures. All the latest information can be found here. https://www.uk.coop/newsroom/coronavirus
     
  • The Co-operative GroupThe Co-operative Group undertook relevant initiatives to help communities and those more exposed to food insecurity. It has in fact published an ad hoc page on how to help the community in times of coronavirus and made an appeal to supply food banks to help the vulnerable. Co-op is urging communities to come together and support one another as it outlined a range of measures to help those whose lives have been affected by the coronavirus (info here). The Co-operative Group has also started using Deliveroo to deliver food to the local people in need. But the company has also in the past few days begun a secret trial in one area of Wales taking orders via a hotline and using local Co-op volunteers and others to deliver food to vulnerable and elderly locals (info here).
     
  • The Midcounties Co-operative has undertaken several actions to counter the coronavirus pandemic such as completing the possibility to perform home deliveries to all its vulnerable and elderly customers.  Moreover, it has extended its pharmacy home delivery service to ensure deliveries are made for all customers aged 70+. To recognise and reward the efforts of employees, it offers them free lunches; a 10% bonus to be applied to the hours worked, for the next 4 weeks; an increase in the childcare discount for employees in the Co-op Nurseries to 50%; a discount in the food stores to be increased from 10% to 20% for all employees for 4 weeks. The cooperative also introduced a trading hour between 9:30 and 10:30 for key workers and vulnerable Members and customers to shop. A home delivery service in conjunction with local charities and support groups is guaranteed for members and customers who cannot make it to the store. A special attention has been paid to the engagement with local suppliers to ensure them economic support and the best product availability.
     

European Cooperative Umbrella Associations 

Banking sector – EACB

  • Co-operative banks are committed by nature to fully support the local economy and can act as stabiliser in times like these. Public authorities also ask them to strongly support the economy and continue their financing.
  • EACB has developed a website for initiatives, calls and latest updates:
    http://www.eacb.coop/en/news/covid-19.html