NFC workers lose double voting rights

A chapter in the history of NFC closed yesterday when employee shareholders lost the double voting rights they had enjoyed since the historic flotation of the transport company.

NFC, Britain's largest freight and haulage group, was also one of the country's biggest employee-owned companies and a symbol to many who believed in worker participation.

The extra voting powers were given to protect employees, but the number of staff shareholders has fallen below 10 per cent due to the selling of shares, redundancies and natural wastage.

Under NFC's articles of association, double voting rights lapse six months after the limit is breached, and yesterday marked the first day of the new voting structure.

Sir Christopher Bland, chairman, said: "NFC now has a completely conventional voting structure and one that is appropriate to our time."

The current number of staff shareholders is about 18,000, compared with a peak 28,000. NFC was privatised by an employee buyout in 1982 and floated three years later. In recent years, the company has seen a power struggle between the old guard and those who thought NFC needed an injection of new blood to modernise its operations.

A decline in profits led to bitter in-fighting about the way forward, and after six months of uncertainty Gerry Murphy took over as chief executive earlier this year.