||Issue No. 202||10 November 2003|
Governing the Corporates
Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
Unions: Joel's Law
National Focus: Spring Carnival
Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
Industrial: The Price of War
Economics: Who's Got What
History: Containing Discontent
Review: An Honourable Wally
Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
Governing the Corporates
With public concern about the practices of big business, the grotesque increases in executive pay and the quest for short term profit at an all time high, the idea that a worker with 27 years experience in the company has a contribution to make is compelling.
Major companies are dominated by a small club who sit on each others boards, running the agenda of the large institutional investors who require hyper-profits rather than a sustainable business plan, reinforcing a status quo that separates the interests of the company from those of the broader community.
And when shareholders challenge this direction, as they did at the recent Boral AGM, the directors simply change the rules to disenfranchise all but the mega-million share portfolios.
The result is a corporate climate where management of our large companies is deferred into a beauty contest for the markets - increased profits, dividends and growth at any cost.
The big test of for trade unions will be how their representatives on industry super funds respond to challenges such as Joy's.
Super trustees have, quite rightly, taken the position that their sole function is to represent the interests of their members' by ensuring their retirement incomes are protected.
And, the evidence is that they have done so very effectively in recent years - out-performing the private funds that splash millions in advertising to attract the 'wealth creation' market.
That said, there are elements of Joy Buckland's Board bid that deserve consideration. Customer service and satisfied staff are integral to any business. ANZ has neither right now.
And, as the Labor Council of NSW's research into executive pay shows, there is actually a correlation between mega-salaries and poor corporate performance
Beyond these policy issues there is a simple proposition that surely, amongst the dusty suits on the ANZ Board, the perspective of a staff representative would be a valuable counter perspective.
Indeed many public corporations and government authorities, from the major power companies to the ABC Board, recognise this and actually mandate staff broad representatives.
They do so because they recognise that workers bring a hands-on perspective to the management of companies that compliment the expertise in finance and the law that most directors possess.
With banks spending tens of millions of dollars to dispel negative public attitudes, surely the voice of a women who knows the staff and customers so well can only be an asset.
The prospect of winning a Board seat in one year may be ambitious, but over time let's hope the idea of worker representation - particularly workers of the calibre of Joy Buckland - take root and become a regular part of the corporate landscape.
PS Apologies to our readers for the late posting. After four and half years and 202 issues, we experienced our first fully-fledged technological melt-down.
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