Outsourcing giant Capita has announced that it will become the first major British company listed on the stock exchange to appoint workers to its board since the 1980s.
Its chief executive Jon Lewis wrote in the Times newspaper, “An employee perspective at board level is long overdue and can only help us achieve our objectives. It will ensure the board has an unvarnished view of the operational challenges facing the company. It will improve checks and balances.”
What’s the real agenda? Bosses hope it will polish up Capita’s battered reputation and bind workers to the corporate agenda.
The company is deeply embedded in central government and local authorities—it received £3.484 billion of public money in 2017 alone. But its future was plunged into doubt in January 2018 when it was forced to issue a profit warning.
This came just two weeks after fellow outsourcing company Carillion folded, plunging thousands into unemployment and pensions uncertainty.
In November it was revealed that Capita had failed to send about 48,500 letters to women telling them of cervical screening dates or containing test results. The British Medical Association wrote to the chief executive of NHS England expressing “extreme concern” that the women had not been sent the information following a system error.
Between 150 and 200 included details of abnormal results.
Any boost to share prices would be welcome to chief exec Lewis. He was hired in 2016 on a basic salary of £725,000 a year fixed for three years but with a maximum bonus worth £1.45 million and long-term share payments worth £2.2 million.
The “worker directors” will join a board presently made up of a chairman, the chief executive officer and five non-executive directors. So they won’t have a major voice. But in any case they will have plenty of inducements to follow the company line.
The two successful employees must have worked for the business for at least two years and will be paid an additional £64,500 on top of their existing salary. They will take on full boardroom non-exec duties as well as keeping their day job.
Applicants are to be selected via an “independent process”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the workforce of all large British businesses should have the right to elect a third of seats on the board if the party gained power. Capita will be close to that.
But it’s obvious that these appointments will change absolutely nothing except to have workers arguing what the bosses want.
Taking real power and control means wresting firms away from private ownership and having real democracy.