The service cooperative is another cooperative type formed by persons engaged in the same occupation to deal with common concerns including building up employment security and maintaining the members' existing occupation.
The first service cooperative formed among traditional umbrella makers' groups, named Bo Sang Umbrella Makers Cooperative, was established at Ton Pao sub-district, Sankampaeng District, Chiengmai Province in 1941. Presently, the Cooperative has expanded its business to cover a wider service to their members and re-name it as the Bor Sang Umbrella Handicraft and Wood Products, Ltd.
Later, in 1953, the Nongkham Electricity Service Cooperative, Ltd. was established in the Nongkham district, Bangkok to provide electricity services to the general public. However, in 1978 the Provincial Electricity Authority of Thailand was established to take over this cooperative business for achieving the economy of scale. In 1954 the Aranyik Knife Cooperative, Ltd. was set up at Tung Chang Sub-district, Nakorn Luang District, Ayutthaya Province. The number of service cooperative has increased since then.
Service cooperatives are set up for a number of reasons such as
- To provide services within the cooperative framework for members.
- To procure supplies/materials and consumer goods for sale to members at fair prices;
- To encourage thrift among members through savings and deposits;
- To provide loan funds to members for occupational uses, including releasing in times of crisis;
- To create markets for members' products;
- To assist members in matters of court litigation;
- To promote social safety among members and their families;
- To promote self help and mutual help concept among members;
- To provide cooperative education and training including related subject on members' occupation; and
- To cooperate with other cooperative organizations for cooperative movement development.
The operation of service cooperative is patterned as that of consumer cooperative in the preceding section. At the annual general assembly, members will elect their representatives according to the new Cooperative Act 1999 (B.E.2542) not exceeding 15 persons as board of directors, whose responsibility is to administer the cooperative.
Types of Service Cooperative
At present, there are several types of service Cooperative such as:
- Cottage Industry Cooperatives. These are formed among handicraft workers to deal with problems of raw materials and marketing. They encourage the utilization of local materials for production
- Transportation Cooperatives which are formed among low-income people, engaged in transport services. Currently, this cooperative type consists of: Bus Cooperatives; Taxi Cooperatives; Tricycle Cooperatives; and Mini-bus Cooperatives.
- Housing and Community Service Cooperatives These are formed to serve groups facing housing and/or community needs problems. They can be sub-divided to two types of Housing Cooperative and Community Service Cooperatives.
- Infrastructure Service Cooperatives. These are formed among people in the same or nearby communities to deal with shared infrastructure concerns. There are currently three categories under this cooperative type of Electricity Cooperatives; Artesian Well Water Cooperatives; and Water Supply Cooperatives
There are still other service cooperatives apart from the ones mentioned above. These are: Employment Cooperative of Thailand, Ltd.; The Thai Construction Service Cooperative, Ltd.; and the Drinking Water Cooperative, Ltd.; and etc.
Benefits to Members
There are both general and occupation-specific benefits to those who join with service cooperatives. Among them are:
- Cottage industry cooperatives help members to improve their skills and production techniques to meet quality standards required by the market. Through joint buying and selling, members are able to save costs as well as increase incomes.
- Transportation cooperatives allow legal service operations by members, assuring them of consistent incomes and enabling them to keep track of transportation regulations.
- Housing cooperatives enable members to attain the basic necessity of housing for their families at affordable costs.
- Community Service Cooperatives ensure that community infrastructure is maintained properly over time, thus making full use of the members' own as well as government expenditures on these infrastructures. The cooperatives shall play also in improving community health and safety.
- Infrastructure Service Cooperatives allow members access to necessary infrastructure at reasonable cost.
- All types of service cooperative provide members the opportunity to improve their quality of life through increased incomes, safety and access to occupational and family needs.
- Members receive dividends annually, and rebate according to business done.