Record UK Shareholder Vote in Favour Of Labour Resolution
National Express has now achieved the dubious distinction of attracting the largest AGM vote in favour of a shareholder sponsored labour rights resolution at a UK listed company.
At the early May annual meeting shareholders proposed that a mutually agreeable representative be appointed to examine claims and counter claims at the company’s troubled North American subsidiary Durham School Services and then report to the Board and shareholders.
Sponsored by three UK based Local Authority pension funds, the US Teamsters General Fund, and 100 individual National Express shareholders—owners of approximately two percent of the company’s stock Resolution 22 garnered 15.38% support from shareholders, up from the 12.83% for a broadly similar resolution put before last years annual meeting.
This years meeting was again dominated by shareholders quizzing the Board on their continued reluctance to acknowledge merit in shareholder concerns about company values, reputational risk and compliance with labour standards as the controversy over labour relations at Durham enters its sixth year.
In the last decade Durham has regularly been on the wrong side of US National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) adjudications over treatment of employees, freedom of association and a series of representation and recognition matters.
“An independent review carried out by someone the Board and trade union have confidence in would be a good way to focus back on the prosperity of the company, health and safety of the workplace and excellent customer service—it’s what we all want to see,” Councillor Richard Greening said in representing the views of LAPFF funds who sponsored the resolution.
Professor William Gould, former chairman of the National Labour Relations Board and independent monitor of UK based transportation company FirstGroup from 2008 to 2011 that also had labour issues in the US spoke at the meeting on the need for fair treatment of all workers.
“A delay in justice is equivalent to its denial, and a delay in justice serves neither the employer nor the employee,” Gould stated to the Board in urging a change in stance.
Special Resolution 22 also gained support from prominent US governance adviser group ISS, CalsTRS and Dutch giant APG, a further signal that international investors are looking for the Board to take a more active stance in addressing shareholder concerns and resolving the outstanding issues dogging US operations.
At this stage, the next steps for shareholders seeking change have not been confirmed.