Logistics and crisis: The supply chain system in the Po valley region

The question now is what remains of this original spirit in the ongoing supply chains capitalism; putting it better, are the Emilia-Romagna logistics cooperatives still based on solidarity and self-organization? These questions leads us to take in consideration the third level, that is the material situation inside ongoing cooperatives operating in this branch and in this region. We have to notice that in the last years many enterprises decided to outsource their logistics services to small cooperatives. Why? We can try to put forward three explanations for this phenomenon: the flexibility of cooperative business model, savings on labour-force, unaccountability toward workers’ rights. Cooperatives are a kind of firm that has legal and financial advantages, like the possibility to open and to close it more easily; they permit to save money on labour-force’s costs because of the condition of member-worker; they create a chain that breaks the direct relationship between owners and workers through the outsourcing so that it is not possible to account directly someone for his responsibility towards economic decisions. Weaving these three levels among them (theoretical, historical and material), we can state that logistics cooperatives in Emilia-Romagna loosed their original spirit of solidarity and self-organization among workers and became a device of capital exploitation. In fact we can highlight the existence of a proper system of cooperatives, using this definition as indicator of a specific model of organization of labour-force. More specifically, we mean a pyramidal and vertical business structure that presents on the top an head-enterprise, in the middle some cooperatives and workers at the base. It is a system of Chinese boxes made by a succession of cooperatives where workers lose both economic power and rights.

Among the organizational pyramids of Emilia-Romagna logistics cooperatives, one has become notable and clear during the struggle of last years in this economic branch in Po Valley Region. We are talking about Granarolo system of cooperatives. Granarolo is a famous and important Italian enterprise of dairy products located in Cadriano, just outside Bologna. This enterprise has outsourced a part of the delivery sector to Cooperativa Trasporto Latte (translated as Milk Transport Cooperative). But Ctl, located close to Granarolo warehouses, is only the first step of this pyramid, below it there is Sgb, a union of other three cooperatives: Work Project, Global Logic and Planet Log. Labour force is distributed among these last three even if it works basically for Granarolo.

We can conclude that whether this is the typical organization of labour in Emilia-Romagna (and not only there) supply chains, the point of fracture with this system has been the decision to challenge this pyramid stating “stop the system of cooperatives!”. Workers and  rank and file unions called head-enterprises back to their responsibilities towards workers stating that they couldn’t hide themselves under the coverage of outsourced services to cooperatives. In the case of Granarolo, as an example, workers of Sgb union accounted Granarolo for its duties towards their salary and rights, not only the cooperatives where they were formally enrolled.

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