Annual General Meeting Manchester 2015

Following last year’s vote to change our Governance arrangements, Manchester Convention Centre witnessed the Co-operatives first ‘one member one vote’ AGM.  I was looking forward to seeing how the meeting would go, and whether there would be any surprises in the voting for the ten motions.

                                            “The highlight for me, was the speech by the President of the Society, Lesley Reznicek”My first impression of the meeting was that it was a long, and often bad tempered, affair. Two things struck me -  One was that the timetable should have been explained at the beginning of the meeting, so that members would know rough timings, and should have included scheduled breaks. Secondly, I was surprised how a very small minority of members took to heckling speakers.  I believe members had plenty of opportunity to put their views forward, but there was too much shouting and heckling for my liking.  I wondered if many members attending for the first time left with a positive view of Co-operators.

The highlight for me, was the speech by the President of the Society, Lesley Reznicek, who spoke passionately about the future for the Members, the Council and the Board to work co-operatively in the future to rebuild our co-operative fortunes.  You can see the speech by clicking here.

Executive remuneration is always an incendiary issue, especially with large Executive salaries being discussed. However in an organisation employing over 90,000 colleagues, I was pleased that we also emphasised the 8% raise in the lowest pay this year.  I am passionate that the Co-operative should not be a low wage employer, so I was delighted that this took the lowest paid colleagues to the median pay in retail. I hope that as the Group becomes stronger in the next few years we can fulfil our aspiration to be a living wage employer.  As for Executive pay, in 2013 when the Group was close to the brink, we paid a high price for bring in people to save the Society.  Now we are in a rebuilding phase nd I hope we see Executive pay realign to the median rate of the pay in the near future.  These will still be large numbers and I hope we can have a debate on whether Executive pay and success are aligned.

When it came to the votes, there were large majorities for the motions 1-8. For the first time in the Co-operative history members voted directly to elect the Chair, the CEO and Non Executive Director to the Board.  

Motion nine and ten dealt with whether the Group should provide funds for political donations and subscriptions to the Co-operative Party.  In motion 9 b members voted against donating money to the Co-operative Party and in motion 10 supported the motion to subscribe to the Co-operative Party.   On the face of it, it would appear to be contradictory, but the Board after the vote agreed to continue funding the Co-operative Party, which I think was the right decision.  

Going forward, the Co-operative Party has two challenges.  Should it maintain its exclusive link to Labour now that the Labour Party only has a majority administration in Wales.  Secondly, should it allow members of all political parties as well as those who are not members of another party, to join the Co-operative Party.  Now doubt the Co-operative Party will be having discussions on these matters in the future.

Finally, I have to say thank you to all the exhibitors and Co-operative colleagues who made the Marketplace outside of the formal AGM a welcoming place.  A lot of work and effort went into making this aspect of the AGM a great experience and I am looking forward to attending next year’s AGM already.


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