The Bullock Committee was set up in 1975 to consider ways of introducing industrial democracy in Britain. One of the key players in this was Jack Jones, then the general secretary of the TUC, who persuaded his senior colleagues of its advantages and that having workers’ representatives in the boardroom would be beneficial. The report proposed the following measures:
1. Workers should have the right to elect directors onto the boards of companies with 2,000 or more employees.
2. These directors should be elected onto a single tier Main Board, not onto the upper level of a two-tier structure as in West Germany.
3. The number of worker directors should equal the number elected by the shareholders.
4. These two groups should agree on a smaller, third group of independents (the 2x + y formula)
5. Boards should be obliged by law to take account of workers’ as well as shareholders’ interests.
6. Worker directors should normally be trade unionists and be elected only by trade unionists.
7. The right to elect worker directors should apply in all companies with 2,000 or more employees, and should be triggered by workers’ request.
From John Kelly, Trade Unions and Socialist Politics (London: Verso 1987) 209.
This would have been the most radical proposal for worker’s control in Europe. It was too much at the time, and the number of worker directors were cut down in further amendments to a third, and then further forms watered it down still further until it was finally abandoned. The Labour party at the time had a majority of only five, and didn’t want the bother of fighting the Tories on the issue, and there was unfortunately little support for the proposals from the unions.
If it had gone through, it would have made British industry the most democratic in Europe, and gone some way to the socialist dream of the workers actually being able to take possession of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Theresa May has recently raised the issue of worker directors, but I doubt she really means it. If she does genuinely have something in mind, it will in no way be anywhere near as radical as that. My guess it’ll be token representation, at the most. Plus there’ll probably be a clause in it saying that you will forfeit some of your other statutory rights as an employee, just like Cameron tried to introduce.
Forget Theresa May. Demand the genuine article.