New union lobby group will attempt to coordinate workers’ voices on pension funds for FTSE350 companies

Tim Lezard

Pensions---scottish-nhs-picketThe two largest unions in the UK have joined with the TUC to try to secure more workers’ control over decisions concerning £1bn-worth of pension fund assets and companies’ executive bonuses.

The group, Trade Union Share Owners – which includes UNISON and Unite – will lobby the AGMs of major firms which control pension investment over issues from the gender balance among top managers and appointees, to living wage policies.

Union pension analysts say they will work with the shareholder advisory group Pensions Investment Research Consultants to try to coordinate voting at company AGMs and get workers voices heard in the boardrooms of FTSE350 firms.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Unions are all about collective principles and action to enable progress and tackle inequity. Now we can demonstrate this with our collective investment power.

“We will be active share owners of FTSE companies, in the interests of our scheme members and other stakeholders in the companies our funds own.

“We will be modern, responsible investors.”

TUC officials say the new voting and engagement guidelines have been drawn up to ensure that corporate governance policies that unions have long criticised – such as all-male boards, excessive director pay and bonus packages, and the non-advertisement of new director positions – will be challenged by union voting at company AGMs.

The guidelines include:

  • Moves to limit the growing gap in the pay of those at the very top and bottom of companies, with the aim of achieving a 20:1 pay ratio, and for pay increases to directors to mirror those being offered to ordinary employees.
  • Persuading all companies to become living wage employers on the basis that decent wages lower staff turnover and absence rates, and lead to a more motivated, productive workforce.
  • Encouraging companies which are keen to include worker representatives in their corporate governance structures.
  • At least a quarter of the board positions to be held by women.
  • All board vacancies to be advertised, rather than people simply being invited to join.
  • A limit to the number of board positions that directors can hold. Where individuals are unable to devote enough time to their role their re-election should be opposed.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
Author avatar

Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

Read All Articles