Workers’ capital is invested in companies operating in a globalised economy, with increasingly complex supply chains. By leveraging their retirement savings, workers can influence how companies respect human and labour rights, remain financially sustainable, and minimize adverse impacts on the environment.
Understanding the importance of this role, the CWC (Global Unions Committee on Workers’ Capital), established in 1999, connects labour activists from around the world to promote information sharing and joint action in the field of workers’ capital. The CWC is a joint initiative of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Global Unions Federations (GUFs) and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC).
The work of the CWC, guided by the Global Unions Statement on Responsible Approaches to the Stewardship of Workers’ Capital (2007), and is implemented through working groups on shareholder activism, trustee education, and economically targeted investment.
Power with Principles: Using Shareholder Power for Workers’ Rights
With more than 100 international participants from 15 countries, the 2014 Workers’ Capital Conference provided a dynamic forum to advance the agenda for workers’ capital and chart a just future for workers through responsible investment strategies. The annual international meeting of pension fund trustees, trade union representatives and capital strategies staff took place 22-24 September 2014 in Montréal, Canada, organized by the Global Unions Committee on Workers’ Capital (CWC) with support from Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ),Fonds de Solidarité FTQ, and Bâtirente.
The keynote address, delivered by James Galbraith, professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, provided an overarching context to consider the role of trade unions and workers’ capital.
“The point and purpose of a workers’ movement is to ensure, protect and provide for the group. This is not only fair, not only just and humane, it is also efficient. It is what makes it possible for us to live well in large community…This approach, this conception, was the way forward before the age of growth and I would suggest it is the way forward now.”
The conference underlined how workers’ capital priorities, from supporting decent work to combating income inequality, can go hand-in-hand with ensuring the long-term viability of workers’ retirement savings. A number of globally-relevant issues where pension funds can make it a difference were dealt with during interactive workshop sessions: combating excessive CEO compensation, addressing investment fees, increasing exposure to infrastructure finance and to green investments, defending workers’ rights in Qatar, integrating tax avoidance and evasion risks in investment policy.
The discussions highlighted the important role of member-nominated pension fund trustees, of the trade unions that support them, and of international networks to share ideas and facilitate collective action, in order to ensure that workers’ capital is invested in line with workers’ values.
Sharan Burrow, Secretary General of the International Trade Union Confederation, addressed the audience at the close of the conference: “The work that you do is critical. We do have a distinct set of values; we have a distinct view of a just and sustainable future. It’s not an easy journey but we have never backed away from an approach to a world that is based on social justice. Let us put our capital to work to achieve it.”
How did investors voice their discontent with regards to executive compensation at Barrick Gold in Canada and Afren in the UK? Both companies – likely to be held in pension fund portfolios – faced votes of historic proportion against executive compensation in 2013.
Global Proxy Review is a pension trustee’s guide to key shareholder votes at multi-national companies across the globe. With this oversight tool, trustees and investors can evaluate the performance of fund managers or proxy voting services on the most important environmental, social and governance issues of the year.
The 2013 report includes 40 votes from eight different countries on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues of particular importance to the labour movement.
Visit: www.workerscapital.org/proxyreview to download the full report
Click here to read the press release
Trustees and investors can now use the Global Proxy Review interactive website to search key votes from the past three years. Go to the Global Proxy Review website to start searching and reviewing the voting record for your pension plan!
The CWC Secretariat has launched a new Global CEO Paywatch webpage, featuring an overview and analysis of global trends in executive compensation along with a table compairing top paid executives in Australia, Canada and the United States.
- Trends in executive compensation and income inequalities
- Why has executive compensation increased so much?
- The reaction to excessive executive compensation
- Impact of Say-on-Pay votes on executive compensation
- Next steps for pension trustees
In addition, the Global CEO Paywatch table provides the salaries of the top 10 paid CEO’s in Australia, Canada and the US and the result of Say-on-pay votes demonstrating increasing discontent by investors.
Go to the Global CEO Paywatch webpage
Also available as a CWC Investor Brief.
If you are interested in participating in this project and expanding the number of countries listed in this table, we encourage you to contact the CWC Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Global Unions Committee on Workers Capital is encouraging institutional investors to support the Accord. This first in a series of blog posts focuses on the reputational risks faced by companies that have not signed the Bangladesh Accord and outlines why pension trustees should be concerned about this issue.
Reputational risks: why should pension trustees care?
Read the full blog post here.
Also available as a CWC Investor Brief.