Tuesday 15 January 2013

The Labour debate on corporate governance

More signs that a tilt towards employees is on the cards? This from the Labourlist One Nation pamphlet:
First, we need to rethink the British approach to corporate governance, which gives a formal governance role only to shareholders. Shareholdings are too fragmented and share ownership too diverse in most companies for shareholders to be able to properly oversee how companies are run. The legitimate role of employee representatives and works councils in company decision-making in many European countries stems from the formal role afforded to employees, alongside other interest groups like consumers and local communities, in corporate governance. A requirement to take decisions in the long-term interest of the company rather than the sole interests of shareholders or directors (or even workers) means that diverse interests have to be balanced and comprises struck.
Similarly there is a whole chapter on corporate governance written by Maurice Glasman in the Fabian pamphlet The Great Re-balancing. Here's a chunk -
Corporate governance reform asks a lot of capital. It relinquishes its ultimate sovereignty and recognises the workforce, and a skilled and powerful workforce at that, as a necessary part of the generation of value. It recognises the inability to hold itself accountable and recognises its common interest with labour in disciplining its tendency to be too generous to itself. It also asks a lot of labour, and of the unions. The German and British trade unions took different pathways in 1945. The British trade unions went for the Keynesian state model in which nationalisation, the welfare state, statutory wage settlements and collective bargaining were the mainstay. In West Germany, in contrast, they went for a worker representation model within the economy within a decentralised political system in which labour market entry was regulated by vocational qualification and the financial system was far more decentralised, with regional and sectoral banks playing a far more significant role. While the British model was faster out of the blocks in 1945 it turned out that the German model won the race. They retained far higher trade union membership, lower wage differentials, fewer job losses and a vocational status for labour within the economy. One of the consequences of corporate governance reform is the requirement for trade unions to seek the common good and that is a conversation that has barely begun.

Glasman goes on to argue that we basically need co-determination in the UK.

So, quite a few signals that wonk-ish types in Labour think corp gov reform is big issue, and what they are setting out is break with shareholder primacy. I guess the big unanswered question is what the frontbench makes of all this.

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