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Malcolm Hurlston: A plan for trades unions
ESOP Centre’s chairman Malcolm Hurlston, writing for Blue Chip magazine, urged trades unions to embrace employee share ownership, providing them with a five-point plan on how to get closer to this aim. The article was taken from a speech originally delivered by Hurlston at the ProEFP conference at the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels last October.
In his piece, Hurlston highlights the closely-knit relation between trades unions’ and employee share plans’ main purposes:
For trades unions the first need is for solidarity; for employee share plans, it is the wellbeing of the company, the creation of the wealth which can be shared with those who work for it.
In spite of this shared vision, trades unions have so far approached employee share ownership “with reserve, incomprehension and even hostility”, he writes. The reason why this happened might have been the rise of Thatcherism and the opposition to it: employee share ownership was confused with privatisation, and thus strenuously fought against.
[Trades unions'] appetite for the political battle sometimes overcame their common sense – workers at British Telecom were advised to turn down the offer of free shares. Unsurprisingly over 90% said ‘yes’ to the shares and the union had made itself look silly.
Employees, especially those of multinational companies, need trades unions to help them see through the jungle of financial regulations, which are today more difficult to understand than they have ever been.
New financial regulations make it harder for companies to give advice to their own employees about how to run their finances – even their company shares. As a result many are now directing employees to third parties. It would be nice to think they would automatically turn to their unions but it is not yet the case. Now is the time for unions to get involved – to help their members and to give themselves an enhanced role.
Educate, negotiate, empower, study the structure of trusts in depth, and finally engage: this is the five-steps recipe proposed by Hurlston to bridge the gap between trades unions and employee share schemes and finally bring them on the same side – the one favouring employees’ solidarity and wellbeing.
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