Trade Union Interests In Corporate Governance In Anglo-American Firms

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: Booth 65
Oral Presentation
Catherine CASEY , School of Management, University of Leicester, Leicester, United Kingdom

The participation of labour in corporate governance is institutionalized in a small number of countries, especially in European Union states, and variably constrained or systematically precluded everywhere else. Notably, the dominant model of corporate governance in Anglo-American contexts in recent decades exhibits a high prioritization of shareholder interest maximization. Much Anglophone business, economics, corporate and labour law literatures typically assume that workers do not have, or warrant, a voice in governance. Workers’ voice, where acknowledged, is expected to be expressed at the level of workplace decisions and employment relations, or through their shareholding interests. That assumed normative exclusion of workers’ representation from high levels of firm decision-making has powerfully subordinated the valuation of workers’ interests and their political expression. In Anglo-American contexts, finance economics has prevailed in corporate governance decision-making. However, since the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath the centrality of finance and shareholder sovereignty is now called into new question. Corporate governance is being brought into a political economic discourse and expanded agenda of interest and demand.

This paper addresses critical questions in regard to workers’ and trade unions’ interest in, and voice aspirations toward, corporate governance and high-order decision making in Anglophone contexts. The paper is part of a larger comparative empirical study of corporate governance in four Anglophone countries (United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia and New Zealand) conducted in 2012 – 2014. The paper specifically addresses Anglophone trade unions’ interest in corporate governance. It discusses findings that indicate significant and various interests among national trade union bodies. It finds that lack of salience or lack of effectiveness of labour interest expression in corporate governance cannot be assumed as lack of interest in participation across Anglophone countries.