Conference debates on a fairer economy

Conference debates on a fairer economy

Conference debated three motions setting out ideas for a fairer economy: workers on boards, ethical procurement by government departments and reforming the banking system

Workers on boards

Delegates backed a call for a campaign for legislative changes that will force companies with more than 100 employees to have worker representation on their boards to influence decision-making.

Rod Dowler (CMD Greater London West), who proposed the motion, said the Companies Act should be reformed to ensure workers can be represented on executive boards.

“The real purpose of having employee representation on a board is not to out vote renegade directors, but to provide some checks and balances.

“Employees have the potential to give a wider view at board level, but also enable all board decisions to monitored, such as payment of excessive bonuses,” said Dowler.

But Marcus Swift (Sellafield) voiced his opposition: “The motion should have called for union representation at board level, where unions are recognised. Pushing for reform as written in the motion could undermine unions through alternatives, such as employee councils.”

Speaking for the NEC, who supported the motion, Tasos Zodiates said: “Sometimes in order to move forward you have to take baby steps.”

“The caveat the NEC would like to add is that it can’t be a stooge employee sitting on the board that has been handpicked by the management. We want to campaign for genuine engagement between trade unions and companies’ executive boards,” Zodiates concluded.

Ethical procurement for government departments

Prospect should seek to influence government buying policy to discourage procuring goods and services from companies that are judged by HMRC to be using tax avoidance measures.

This was the crux of a successful motion brought by Bob Akroyd (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), which was also supported by the NEC.

“An ethical buying policy for government procurement would not only influence other public sector bodies but stand as an example of best practice for the private sector too,” Akroyd said.

The motion instructs the NEC to seek a change to government’s procurement standards produced by the Crown Commercial Service in order to create a new buying policy that takes into account evidence from HMRC regarding multi-national companies’ corporate tax avoidance.

How to make money and banking work for society

The money and banking system can be reformed so that it supports a fairer and more sustainable economy, delegates heard.

Vince Butler (London and South East region) moved a motion instructing the NEC to meet campaign organisation, Positive Money to discuss opportunities for collaboration.

The motion noted that since 2009, the Bank of England has created billions of pounds through quantitative easing, which it has used to buy financial assets such as corporate bonds. But this policy has done very little for ordinary people and exacerbated wealth inequality.

Speaking on behalf of the NEC, Gordon Hutchinson opposed the motion on the basis that taking a decision about monetary policy without doing research into it was against Prospect’s fact based ethos.

But Butler argued that simply meeting Positive Money would not commit Prospect to any position. Delegates agreed and the motion was carried.