Survey for Unions21 think-tank found 76% of UK employees in favour of worker reps sitting on company boards of directors

Tim Lezard

Fair-Work-Commission-LogoTrade union campaigners say there is now widespread public support for the idea of ‘worker directors’ in UK boardrooms, with even a sizeable majority of Conservative voters backing such a move.

A poll by Survation for the Unions21 think-tank found 76% of UK employees and 89% of trade union members are in favour of workforce representatives sitting on company boards of directors.

Labour voters were most strongly in favour, with 85% in support, followed by Liberal Democrat voters with 81% and Conservative voters with 70%.

More than half of all respondents (53%) said they would support 10% or 20% of seats on company boards being reserved by law for workforce representatives.

Only 7% of employees were opposed to legally reserving any seats for workforce representatives.

Campaigners say the figures reflect growing popular demands for greater corporate accountability in the wake of the banking crisis.

Unions21 Chair Sue Ferns said:“This polling data confirms there is a strong appetite to do business differently.

“It adds weight to the initial findings of the Workplace Employment Relations Survey showing an association between involvement in decision-making and commitment to the organisation.

“Everyone would benefit from a change in approach, as is already evident from good practice elsewhere in Europe.”

Worker directors are commonplace in many EU states, notably Ireland and Germany, but are much rarer here although companies from the transport giant First group to the retailer John Lewis have adopted the idea.

Both Labour’s Ed Miliband and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have expressed support for the idea of workers sitting on remuneration committees.

Survation Chief Executive, Damian Lyons Lowe, commented on the findings saying “with over three quarters of the UK’s workforce supporting the idea of employee board representatives, including a clear majority of the voters for all three main parties, this appears to be an idea whose time has come.

“There has been lots of talking about possible ways to improve corporate accountability over the last few years, and there is clearly now an appetite among the general public to see words translated into action.”

The poll results are likely to figure prominently in a report by the Unions21 Fair Work Commission, which is due next month.

Survation polled 1,004 workers in full and part time employment between 1st – 4th February 2013.

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Tim Lezard

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

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