Shares – a union issue?
Increasingly the work outsourced by the civil service and other areas where we organise is dominated by huge corporations.
Many of these are publicly traded, which means that their shares are open for all, including PCS, to buy.
The union has bought shares in a number of these huge companies, not as an investment, but as a means of pressurising the companies. As shareholders, we are entitled, in certain circumstances, to put motions forward to the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) and certainly we are entitled to raise questions directly at the AGM to the senior managers of those companies.
We’ve recently discussed with the TUC, which is the body that brings together all the major unions in the UK, how we can best use this ability to submit motions, questions, etc.
They have supplied us with practical information about how we can best intervene in AGMs. That we need to intervene is obvious as these companies profit out of your hard work; which in many places is at the minimum wage and with no proper sick pay.
Of course they only thrive because the UK government allows work to be outsourced. It is not a law of nature that they have to, it is a choice. Also, even if work is outsourced, it doesn’t have to be at minimum standards. Both the Scottish and Welsh governments set out policies that require the companies to treat outsourced staff more fairly than the UK government. We think both those countries can go further but at least they have some conception that standards are required.
We will intervene in AGMs where that makes sense but in the end the companies will really react if we all work together in the union, build our strength in the workplace and act together to force them to offer better wages and conditions.
John Moloney, PCS assistant general secretary