Unions criticise Theresa May for rowing back on worker board representation

Prime Minister Theresa May speaking to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference

Prime Minister Theresa May speaking to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference in London. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Unions have criticised the prime minister for 'not delivering' on a pledge to allow workers to have a representative on company boards.

Theresa May told the Conservative Party conference that employees would join directors in boardrooms to be given a say on how businesses operate.

But in a keynote speech to business leaders, she said there would be no direct appointment of workers or trade unions to boards, telling the CBI there was 'nothing anti-business' in her plans.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'Theresa May made a clear promise to have workers represented on company boards. The proposals in her speech do not deliver on this.

'This is not the way to show that you want to govern for ordinary working people.'

The prime minister told the CBI's annual conference in London: 'While it is important that the voices of workers and consumers should be represented, I can categorically tell you that this is not about mandating works councils, or the direct appointment of workers or trade union representatives on boards.

'Some companies may find that these models work best for them - but there are other routes that use existing board structures, complemented or supplemented by advisory councils or panels, to ensure all those with a stake in the company are properly represented. It will be a question of finding the model that works.

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'Second, this is not about creating German-style binary boards which separate the running of the company from the inputs of shareholders, employees, customers or suppliers. Our unitary board system has served us well and will continue to do so.

'But it is about establishing the best corporate governance of any major economy, ensuring employees' voices are properly represented in board deliberations, and that business maintains and - where necessary - regains the trust of the public.

'There is nothing anti-business about this agenda. Better governance will help companies to take better decisions, for their own long-term benefit and that of the economy overall.

'So this is an important task. We will work with you to achieve it, and I know you will rise to the challenge.'

She added there were a number of ways of having worker representatives on boards, saying the government will be consulting 'with business' to arrive at the best model.