Trade union SIPTU says about its own work, “In addition to its daily activities in workplace bargaining with employers, SIPTU campaigns on a wide range of issues - some at local level and some at national level in order to improve the quality of life of its members and of the wider community.” Why then are SIPTU and other unions surprisingly quiet about encouraging employee share ownership in companies where their members are represented?
On the 9th of October last, Minister Richard Bruton announced plans to have start-up enterprises create 93,000 jobs over the next five years. The news release mentions share based remuneration as part of the plan. It’s something that ISME has lobbied the government on because it has proven benefits for the economy.
John Lewis Partnership
There are many types of employee owned enterprises, some wholly owned, some partially owned. One of the best known success stories is the John Lewis chain of shops in the UK, owned in its entirety by its 83,000 workers. Engineering consultants Arup is another. The UK government likes the idea so much it is spending £50 million a year promoting it. The Nuttall Report that it commissioned on the benefits of employee participation points to much higher growth, greater staff retention and much lower absenteeism amongst companies where staff owns a slice of the action. It’s all good.
But apart from the ‘Jobs’ Department announcing it absolutely nothing has happened. The clear implication was that there was to be some follow up on this either in Budget 2015 or in the Finance Bill. Not a sign of it. So what could have happened?
Nobbled by the unions?
We’re a suspicious lot at ISME. We think that someone may not like the idea and has tried to nobble it. Could that someone be the trade unions? Owning a share in the company you work for, moves your status from ‘oppressed worker’ to ‘participating worker’. People who own their own companies determine their own lives. People who own part of their businesses don’t need trade unions. People who have a stake in their own enterprises don’t need a patronising union to campaign to ‘…improve the quality of life of its members’.
ISME believes in trying to improve the state of the nation by creating a proper enterprise culture. Employee ownership should be part of that mix. It looks like we’re doing the work of the unions again in really trying to improve the lot of the worker.