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The Rise of Executive Power

Workers once won the fight for rewards at work, now executives dominate. Michael Blastland asks how bosses have become so powerful, and if workers and investors can fight back.

In the battle over rewards at work, workers grew accustomed to winning a healthy share of the spoils during the 1960s and 1970s - and to being accorded high status. Since the 1980s, however, the power of executives has grown and is now reflected in their own much higher financial rewards and enhanced esteem. What explains this shift in power - and will it last?

Michael Blastland asks why workers have appeared to be so weak as bosses have redressed the balance of power at work so strikingly in their own favour. Laws curbing trade union power, for example, so often cited as the explanation can, though, only be part of the reason. Investors - both owners and shareholders - have also lost out financially in relative terms as executives have grown wealthier and stronger.

So what explains the power of the executive class? Are there other trends at work which help explain the relative position of executives and workers? And if both workers and investors want to increase their share of the rewards how might they go about it?

Michael Blastland asks how likely investors and workers are to succeed in any fight to restore their influence when they face such a formidable and entrenched group of executives. He speaks to representatives of all three groups and also considers what business history and the experience of other economies teach us about the likely outcome of the struggle.

Producer Simon Coates.

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30 minutes

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