This is a copy of the letter I dispatched to all porters at the hospital interested in joining the provisional company I set up. For a background to this, see my post on Workers' Cooperatives:
Level 1 Porter
Level 1 Main Hospital
John Radcliffe Hospital
Dear Brother or Sister Porter,
I’m writing to you because you’ve expressed to me a desire to know more about the JRHPC- the John Radcliffe Hospital Porters’ Company (We can think of a better name later!) I’ve decided to set up the JRHPC because of the possibility in the future that the Trust management might try to sell our service out to a private contractor. Anyone who was portering at the JR during the Mediclean era will probably agree that that would be a tragedy, both for ourselves and the patients. We simply cannot let this happen. This is not on the cards at the present time because of our current employment with the NHS-Carillion Partnership; we talking long-term possibilities here, but I think it’s wise to prepare now, so that we can act quickly if the danger arises.
The JRHPC is a provisional organization, not a trading business, but if it needs to become a trading business it can do so immediately as long as all the organization and planning work is done. We need to think and talk to each other about what the JRHPC will be like. We need to make a business plan, sort out any administration structures and find out what our rights and obligations would be as an independent healthcare provider to the modern NHS. We need to find and enroll people with the knowledge to help us. Maybe in a while we should hold a meeting, but in the meantime we can talk to each other informally face-to-face. You can also email each other or use the forum on my website (see the links column on the left). There are many obstacles to overcome and no guarantees of success, but hopefully it will never be necessary to even face those obstacles.
One of the first and biggest choices we’ll need to make is whether we want to be part of the JRHPC as an employee or a shareholder. It’s too soon to say which will make us better off financially, but there’s no doubt that the more of us are shareholders, the more democratic and self-empowered the business will be. If we all end up as equal shareholders then it will become a workers’ cooperative. This would be the ideal situation in my opinion because I’ve researched workers’ cooperatives (see my website) and can understand how much better they are than conventional businesses where there are only a handful of shareholders and everyone else just takes a wage without owning a stake in the company, being just a cog in the machine. People in worker’s cooperatives are healthier, happier and more productive and efficient. For them work is a creative experience, not just a necessary chore that must be done to survive. If we end up winning the contract and make a success of it then the idea might catch on in other hospitals and even beyond! What we’re doing here may one day change the world!
As I said above, there’s no rush to do this. We can take our time and get it right. The JRHPC is a provisional organization for a hypothetical situation and nobody will have to fork out a penny at the present time. But everyone is welcome to join and if anyone who doesn’t receive this letter wants to, let me know. The JRHPC membership is not just aimed at porters, but also the civilians in the office, on dispatch, reception or the Help Desk. They are part of the team too.
The first step is simply to start thinking about it, talking about it and building a model in your minds. Remember, nobody knows how to do our job better than ourselves. We can achieve this. Whether we will is not known, but if we don’t try then the outcome is certain.