John McDonnell calls for a “right to own” firms to empower UK workers

In speech at the Labour Economic Forum in Glasgow, Labour makes the case for radical workers’ ownership

THE SHADOW CHANCELLOR, John McDonnell, has told the Labour economic forum in Glasgow that the next Labour Government would bring in a “right to buy” law to allow workers a greater say in business.

In a speech delivered today (Saturday 11 March), to a hall of 200 activists, the Labour shadow chancellor laid out his proposals to ensure that workers could buy out businesses and have a greater role in ensuring profits went back into the business.

His comments follow the controversy caused by the UK Government’s budget in the week which saw the Chancellor Philip Hammond who was attacked for raising taxes on self employed people through national insurance contributions.

The UK Tories had, during the 2015 election campaign under former prime minister David Cameron, promised not to raise taxes on those who “had taken the enterprising initiative to strike out on their own.”

“We’ll give workers in a company facing a change of ownership first refusal on presenting their own, worker-owned takeover plan.” John McDonnell

McDonnell said: “So the next Labour government will create a “Right to Own”.

“We’ll give workers in a company facing a change of ownership first refusal on presenting their own, worker-owned takeover plan.

“Our new regional development banks will support worker-owned businesses across the country. We’ll aim to double the size of our co-operative sector, so it matches Germany or the US. But I think the same principle has to apply to our communities.

“The next Labour government will take this new approach. It’s an approach that means bringing together those parts of our society where co-operation and trust are fostered.

“It’s an approach that means bringing together those parts of our society where co-operation and trust are fostered.” John McDonnell

“For those on the left, that was a traditional argument for the Union.”

This week has seen Labour UK wide slump to an average of 19 points behind the Tories. Theresa May’s party is placed by YouGov on 44 per cent and Labour on 25 per cent resulting in calls from figures on the right of the Labour party for a change of leader and tactics.

Alex Rowley, deputy leader of the Scottish Labour party, said: “We dont need to pay any mind to the polls or get down about the attacks by the right wing media. What we need to do today is to take the radical new ideas we are talking about here out onto the doorstep.”

Advicates of giving workers more say and ownership of businesses pointt to the practice being common in Germany and Holland where wages and productivity are both high. In fact according to 2015 figures, employee owned businesses increased their productivity by 2.4 per cent, while for the rest of the UK the figure stayed flat.

The Employee Ownership Association’s 2015 survey showed that the top 50 worker-owned companies in the UK increased annual turnover in 2014 by 4.6 per cent to £21.5bn and their workforce by 4.3 per cent to 164,000.

In Germany, studies have found that a right to buy for workers had a positive effect on productivity. According to the two most recent studies, from Bernd Frick, west German firms saw a huge 25 percent jump in productivity, while east German firms transitioning out of Communism saw an even bigger 30 percent jump. The research also found having workers councils in firms raised wages.

The Labour economics forum will continue to tour the whole of the UK with events in Newcastle, Liverpool and Bristol.

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