Frisia Donders, SMart (E.U.)

Frisia Donders is responsible for the territorial development of SMart. She manages several cross-cutting projects and is a spokesperson for SMart. Over the past eight years, Frisia has initiated numerous partnerships with actors from various sectors (academic, socioeconomic, cultural/creative, public and institutional). SMart’s stakeholder community is supported and nurtured in several ways: networking, individual and collective support, the organization of workshops and representation of the community on different occasions. Active in many of these networks, Frisia appreciates linking strategic discourses to the realities of project leaders within SMart.

SMart EU: The current labor situation in western countries is marked by a slow decline of workers on fixed salaries and a rapid increase of freelance workers depending on project contracts and insecure work arrangements. This new ‘precariat’ most often lacks the classic protections that were achieved through organized labour. But a new wave of labor organisations are supplementing the classic union model. This new generation of labour mutuals, or ‘business and employment cooperatives’, have created a legal hack that allows autonomous workers to join the and achieve some protections collectively. Specifically, they can achieve better protection that harmonizes them with a salaried situation. They get paid on time, have insurance, career support, and even access to project financing and shared worker space. The growing co-working sector in Canada demonstrates that a shared approach makes sense and SMart demonstrates how this can be successfully expanded.

SMart, which originated in Belgium, with 75,000 members,  is now expanding as a ‘European Co-operative’ throughout the EU and is part of an alliance of labor mutuals called Bigre, with other members such as Coopaname in France. Workers who join a labor mutual pay a small percentage of their income to a mutual guarantee fund, which allows for fast and regular payment of their invoices, which the labor mutual collects through invoice factoring, acting as the invoicing agent; freelancers are then able to pay themselves a regular wage which can be converted into a more fixed salary, along with other financial tools that an autonomous workers may need. SMart also offers a strong mutualist and cooperative vision of meaningful work in a sustainable economy, and in that way, allies itself with the progressive tradition of a labor movement working for human emancipation. This co-operative model may be the missing link between the precariat and the salariat.

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