Monday, September 18, 2006

Amicus gets worker-director on Allianz board

Should the left support the legal right for one or more employee representatives to sit on the board of private companies?

As I understand it, the idea of worker-directors was one of the demands of the industrial democracy movement in the sixties and seventies, although this was slightly before my political time.

And in certain circumstances, the answer just has to be ‘yes’, especially if the worker-director is properly elected and is the sort of chap or chappess with the political nous forcibly to raise workforce concerns.

But I’m not sure these provisos are met in the case of Amicus getting one of its activists on the supervisory board of insurer Allianz, as detailed in today’s FT [subscription required]:

‘Allianz, Europe's biggest insurer, is this week set to endorse the appointment of a British employee representative on to its supervisory board.

‘Geoff Hayward, a representative of the British Amicus trade union who is employed by Allianz Cornhill, Allianz's British subsidiary, is expected on Thursday to be allocated a seat on Allianz's supervisory board, which appoints and advises the company's senior executives.

‘Mr Hayward, who was not immediately available for comment, would be the first British labour representative in such a position in a German company, a senior German labour official told the Financial Times yesterday.’

For a start, the ‘supervisory board’ is just that. Supervisory. The main board is the body that actually runs the show. And second, I don’t like the word ‘allocated’. I’ve not heard of Geoff Haywood before, but the very fact that he was chosen by management would seem to imply that he is perhaps not of trade union firebrand disposition.

And German worker-directors sometimes end up doing an Animal Farm. Indeed, the entire worker-director system was last year rocked by revelations that some of their number at Volkswagen were in such management perks as freebie dirty weekends in five star hotels, hookers and Viagra included.

Sounds like a dream job for Tommy Sheridan.

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