John McDonnell announces Labour plans to force companies to give workers financial stake

Shadow chancellor to promise Labour government would ‘restore the balance of power in the workplace’

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent, in Manchester
Tuesday 11 September 2018 00:04 BST
John McDonnell will accuse the Conservative of taking workers’ rights back to the level of the 1930s
John McDonnell will accuse the Conservative of taking workers’ rights back to the level of the 1930s (Getty)

John McDonnell will lay out plans to force companies to give workers a financial stake when he addresses a trade union conference later today.

Speaking at the 150th Trade Union Congress, the shadow chancellor will say Labour would give employees the right to take part in “ownership funds” in order to “restore the balance of power in the workplace".

Under a Labour government, he will say, all private companies with more than 250 employees would be forced to set up the funds to give workers a stake and more say over how the firm is run.

The changes would be introduced in law within the first year of a Labour administration led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Addressing union delegates in Manchester, Mr McDonnell will say: “Labour’s programme of workplace reform will restore the balance between employer and worker with a significant extension of trade union rights, modernising corporate governance structures and extending the opportunity for employees to share collectively in the benefits of ownership of their company.

“Labour’s common sense approach will forge a new workplace environment best suited to meeting the challenges of Britain’s ongoing low productivity and the emerging fourth industrial revolution.”

Mr McDonnell will claim the Conservative government has taken employment rights back to a level not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“The role of Conservative governments throughout history has been to restrict and restrain the rights and influence of workers to maximise the profits of the companies that so generously fund their party,” he is expected to say. “It’s a straight quid pro quo.

“The Conservatives try to dress it up as securing some form of balance of power between workers and employers, but few today can argue that the balance hasn’t been overwhelmingly tipped against workers.”

He will add: “Cumulative legislative assaults on trade union freedoms have seriously weakened the ability of trade unions to negotiate effectively on behalf of their members. The result is that for the first time shareholders now take a greater share of national income than workers.

“The massive growth in zero hours contracts and the gig economy have produced a workplace environment of insecurity not seen since the 1930s. The decline of collective bargaining has meant that workers also now have little say over the key decisions taken by their employers over the future of their companies.

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, dismissed Labour’s plans.

“This is Labour’s record on workers: the last Labour government left over half a million more people out of work and every Labour government leaving office with unemployment higher than when it started,” he said.

“Under the Conservatives, there are over 3 million more people in work with the security of a regular pay packet, unemployment is at an all time low and the lowest paid have seen the fastest rise in pay for 20 years thanks to our introduction of the national living wage.”

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