Solar cooperative to save jobs, climate

Dave Kerin. Photo: Takver/Flickr

“Whether I look at manufacturing, or I look at the climate emergency, it’s our generations, the ones alive now, that have a responsibility," said Dave Kerin, a founder of the Earthworker Cooperative, explaining the driving force behind the group’s key project.

Kerin spoke in a new video about an upcoming tour of workplaces to promote Earthworker’s plan to set up Eureka’s Future workers cooperatives.

He said: “Eureka’s Future will manufacture solar hot water systems in each state of Australia. [It] is beginning the process in Morwell, Victoria, which provides around 90% of the state’s power.”

“As jobs disappear, as we’ve seen in manufacturing over the years, we need to find alternatives: alternatives in employment that don’t involve the service sector. Australia is now up to 80% service sector jobs, an economy built on sand, which risks falling through the floor when faced with the global financial crisis.”

Kerin said part of the answer is workers’ cooperatives that can manufacture renewable energy goods.

“The unique part for workers and the community is the way in which we intend to distribute the goods — through Enterprise Bargaining Agreements that unions negotiate with employers.”

Kerin said the Earthworker Cooperative wants to use this system to facilitate the collective purchase of goods by workers and help to bring down people’s power bills. The plan would help cut Australia’s carbon emissions and support Australian manufacturing jobs.

“Workers will be able to choose to receive part of their remuneration as a solar hot water system on theirs, their children's or their parents’ roof,” Kerin said.

A 2007 study commissioned by the cooperative found about 3% of Victorians have solar hot water systems. If all of the state had solar hot water, it would cut 1.5 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions.

Jacob Grech, facilities manager at the Victorian Trades Hall, said he was honoured to be involved with the Earthworker Cooperative project.

“The trade union movement ... has long been at the forefront of innovation in making the world a more liveable place for all Victorians, all Australians.

“We’re not just talking about a solar hot water heater ... we are talking about looking at the way we run our lives, the way we run our planet, and taking some control over our own actions.”

[For more information or to join Earthworker Cooperative for $20, visit: .]