Employees should have right to buy shares in their workplace - shadow chancellor

Britain's shadow Chancellor of the exchequer John McDonnell. © Luke MacGregor
Labour is calling for employees to be given the right to own shares in companies they work for as part of a new policy laid out by shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

In a speech in Manchester on Thursday, McDonnell advocated giving workers the right to request share ownership schemes and to have these proposals considered by management.

He also proposed offering employees the first opportunity to buy out a company that is being dissolved, sold or floated on the stock exchange.

McDonnell spoke in favor of co-operative ownership, arguing that the old economic strategies “have run their course.”

The Tories have offered a right to buy. Labour would seek to better this. We’d be creating a new right to own,” he said.

[There is] long labor movement tradition of decentralization and grass-roots organization.”

There is a thread within the labor and radical movement of self-organization, running right back even before the Chartists to those early organizers for democracy against old corruption.”

The shadow chancellor said Labour governments have overlooked deep “questions of ownership, control and democracy,” but that the party must look at radical ways of “changing the rules of the game.

Our problem today is that we must learn to think systemically about the kind of economy we want,” he said.

And where our opponents now warn and threaten about the terrors ahead, we must present a positive case for the future we all want.

The Tories talked relentlessly, overwhelmingly about the future. Labour, strikingly, did not. We cannot allow that to happen again. We cannot be small ‘c’ conservatives. But the future we want will be built on the best of what we do now. We learn from the past.

The Employee Share Ownership Centre (Esop), which advocates for broad-based employee share ownership, welcomed the shadow chancellor’s announcement.

The Esop Centre is very pleased that the shadow chancellor is showing keen interest in encouraging employees to ask for shares in the companies where they work,” Esop Chairman Malcolm Hulrston told RT on Thursday.

Hurlston said that companies where employees own more than three percent of the stock “radically outperform” FTSE firms owned by shareholders.

Greater employee shareholding and participation lead to stronger companies and a better economy,” he added.

The plan which the shadow chancellor should now home in on is the Company Share Ownership Plan, through which even the low paid and part timers can get a foot on the share-owning ladder.”