The Glasgow branch of the Co-operative Party organised an event to celebrate the International Year of Co-operatives on 31 May 2012. Held at the STUC building in the West End of the city, the event attracted two very prominent speakers: Graeme Nuttall, partner at European law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse and the Westminster government’s advisor on employee ownership; and Bernard Daly, Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP) director and board member of EFES. The theme of the event was employee ownership through financial participation. In Graham’s case, this referred to Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) while Bernard spoke of the history and effects of ESOPs.
While I won’t provide a transcript of their presentations, it is worth commenting briefly on the findings of their respective research. Graeme’s presentation examined the barriers to employee ownership in the UK. The consultation is ongoing (readers can contribute here) but already a number of (expected) obstacles have been identified, including:
- general lack of awareness of employee ownership amongst entrepreneurs;
- poor understanding of the model by advisors (financial, legal, and political);
- existing information relating to employee ownership is often misunderstood; and
- a lack of teaching and research of employee ownership in education.
Bernard’s presentation then sought to explain the role employee ownership, in particular ESOPs, can play in the privatisation of state-owned companies. He particularly emphasised the need for trade unions to embrace employee ownership and not cling desperately to ideologies that do not benefit their members.
Both of the speaker’s presentations are provided below: