Roadchef - a cautionary tale of shares for rights

1st September 2013

Roadchef - a cautionary tale for any worker whose boss offers them shares in the company in exchange for trades union rights.

The Con-Dems' shares for rights scheme comes into effect today (September 1). The TUC is warning that as well as taking away basic employment rights the scheme could cost taxpayers £1bn. They would like us to sign away rights to unfair dismissal, redundancy and flexible working. Any workers tempted by such a scheme should take a look at the fate of the first ever Employee Share Ownership Plan to be set up in the UK, in Roadchef.

A union member at work tipped me off about this scandal, which otherwise I probably wouldn't have noticed as it's normally hidden away in the financial pages. It concerns Tim Ingram Hill, one of Britain's wealthiest men and somebody who has regularly featured on the rich list.

Employees of Roadchef, who had been promised ownership of the company by former owner, Patrick Gee, have been involved in a court case that has now dragged on for a few years. When Gee died it was left to Ingram Hill to carry through the transfer of ownership to the company's staff.
Workers at Roadchef are claiming that Ingram Hill fraudulently transferred over shares that were held in trust for them, to himself, before selling the company for £139 million. Workers who might have expected to pocket around £90,000 each, instead received around £2,300 each.

Company share schemes are far from the means of securing our futures that the Government would have us believe. With jobs, pay and terms and conditions all under constant attack as cuts rain down, it would be a huge mistake to give up any employment protection. For as long as we have to work for the likes of Ingram Hill, our best day to day protection comes from building fighting trade unions to ensure permanent jobs, a living wage, decent pension packages, holiday entitlements and elected trade union representation to protect and improve  our living standards. 
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