Sunday, 10 May 2015

A quarter of National Express shareholders revolt over labour rights

One of the things some people won't have noticed in the aftermath of the election is a very significant shareholder revolt at National Express over labour rights at its AGM last week.

A group of shareholders including LAPFF members had filed a resolution calling on the company to commission an independent review of practice in its US business Durham School Services. This was in response to ongoing allegations of anti-union activity, recently amplified by a report by two Labour MPs who flew to the US to have a look for themselves.

According to the company's RNS release, there was a 15.38% vote for the resolution, with abstentions taking the total not backing the board to over 19%. However, if you strip out the shares held by deputy chair Jorge Cosmen then the extent of the revolt amongst independent shareholders becomes clear. A chunky 18.5% voted for, with 5.5% abstaining, meaning that a quarter failed to back management.

This is very significant. My knowledge of shareholder activism at UK PLCs goes back to the late 1990s. I am certain this is the largest vote of its kind in this period. However, it is likely the largest shareholder vote against a UK company over labour issues, ever. 

National Express has managed something quite remarkable in sparking this scale of opposition. Let's see where it goes next.

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