The co-operative’s rules must include a grievance procedure for dealing with a dispute between:
- a member and another member (including a person who was a member not more than 6 months before the dispute occurred)
- a member and the co-operative.
The grievance procedure must allow for natural justice to be applied. A member may appoint any person to act on their behalf in the grievance procedure.
The rules have the effect of a contract between the co-operative and its members and any alleged breach of the rules should be dealt with according to the dispute resolution procedure.
How are disputes within a co-operative handled?
Resolving a dispute at the earliest opportunity is usually the simplest and most cost-effective way for all involved. If a dispute arises:
- Try to resolve the dispute directly with the parties involved.
- If this direct approach fails, then use the dispute resolution procedure in the co-operative’s rules. (The rules may require the parties to undertake a particular process where a dispute cannot be resolved directly with the co-operative.)
- If the matter remains unresolved, you could try an alternative dispute resolution method such as mediation or arbitration.
- A member or the co-operative can also apply to the Supreme Court of NSW for an order that declares or enforces the rights or obligations of the member or the co-operative.
A member or the co-operative may consider obtaining legal advice from a suitably qualified practitioner if the dispute cannot be resolved directly with the co-operative.
NSW Fair Trading
Fair Trading can only intervene in matters relating to alleged breaches of the Co-operatives National Law (NSW) including:
- continuing to operate whilst insolvent or unable to pay debts
- acting with intent to defraud or for any other fraudulent purpose
- failure to hold board meetings
- failure to hold an annual general meeting
- failure to maintain minutes of meetings
- failure to provide financial reports to members
- failure to lodge annual reports/annual returns.
Fair Trading does not:
- intervene in or conciliate disputes between members or between members and a co-operative
- provide legal advice (including an interpretation of a co-operative’s rules)
- intervene in or determine the validity of meetings or elections.
Where can I get assistance?
You may be able to obtain information or legal assistance from the following sources:
- a legal practitioner of your choice - to find a solicitor visit the Law Society website
- Law Access on 1300 888 529
- Justice Connect on 02 8599 2100.
Information on alternative dispute resolution services is available from:
Need more information?