Business

Unions call for speed in workers on company boards

Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary Image copyright Gareth Fuller
Image caption TUC chief Frances O'Grady says companies should not fear having workers on the board

Trade unions are pushing the prime minister to fulfil her promise to require companies to put worker representatives on boards.

The TUC said Theresa May's promise could be law within a year if a consultation is launched shortly after the Conservative Party Conference.

Mrs May made the pledge in July during her campaign to be Prime Minister.

The government says the issue will be included this autumn in a wider consultation over corporate governance.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: "As the prime minister set out at the G20 last month, to restore greater fairness, we will bring forward a consultation this autumn on measures to tackle corporate irresponsibility, cracking down on excessive corporate pay and poor corporate governance, and giving employees and customers representation on company boards."

'Partnership'

The idea has met with a cool response from business lobby groups.

"Engaging employees in the direction and purpose of their businesses is essential - not only for employee welfare and fairness, but also for productivity. Exactly what form this should take needs careful consideration, CBI Deputy-Director General, Josh Hardie said.

"The CBI is convening a group of members to shape our approach, and we call on government to work in partnership with business to make sure we find the solution that genuinely answers this question," he added.

The Institute of Directors said having workers on the board of directors "can bring benefits in terms of better employee engagement", but said it should be voluntary.

'Nothing to fear'

In a new report, the TUC said the law should apply to all firms with more than 250 workers.

The TUC argues that worker representation on boards is a feature in some of Europe's most successful economies, including Germany, France, Sweden and Denmark.

General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The TUC stands ready to work with Theresa May to make workers on boards a reality. If the political will is there, this policy can be on the statute books within a year.

"The European experience shows that improving worker representation is not something for the UK to fear. It helps improve company performance,"

However it is not clear whether the issue will get much attention from the government, which is working on its strategy for leaving the European Union.

Earlier the prime minister told the BBC that the government will formally begin the Brexit process by the end of March 2017.

She confirmed the deadline for triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets in place a two-year process of withdrawal.

She made the comments before the start of the the Conservative Party's annual conference, which is being held in Birmingham.

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