Author page: Rob Lyon

Worker Ownership: Taking Back Control

Office workers, 2014. Trollbackco / Wikimedia

One of the most depressing constants in industrial life in the UK is the life cycle of the average British business. They are frequently born from the minds of one of the country’s exceptionally well-educated workforce in the high-value manufacturing or software sector, before being built up through the efforts of skilled employees. Sadly, their contribution to the economy is often then hijacked by large, usually overseas, investment firms and conglomerates buying the business. At best, the decisions that affect hundreds of workers and the economies of whole towns are now taken in boardrooms in New York or Shanghai. At worst, the company is asset-stripped for its patents, techniques and talent before being wound up. In between this runs the spectrum of profit relocation (or tax evasion as normal people call it), layoffs, the imposition of hostile working practices and decline of quality. Even the largest and most successful of British businesses aren’t immune to this. When Cadbury’s was taken over by Kraft, the entire board resigned and their replacements subsequently shuttered dozens of factories across the world in a cost-cutting exercise. ARM Holdings, who make the microprocessors found in almost every mobile phone, were taken over by Japan’s SoftBank and then saw their Chinese arm sold to fuel Xi Jinping’s government’s strategy of acquiring foreign technology firms to jump-start China’s indigenous high-tech industry.