UK Labour calls for worker ownership, nationalisations

Liverpool (AFP) –


Britain's main opposition Labour Party on Monday called for mass nationalisation and a new scheme to give workers a share of company dividends that was dismissed by big business.

At the party's annual conference, shadow finance minister John McDonnell outlined plans to renationalise water, rail, energy and mail services within five years.

"People have just had enough of being ripped off by privatisation," McDonnell told delegates to thundering applause.

Many Britons are dissatisfied with services provided by privatised companies, including frequent train delays, technical problems and ever-increasing bills for water.

"Public ownership has proved its popularity in opinion poll after opinion poll," he said.

McDonnell also outlined plans for companies in Britain with 250 or more employees to hand over up to 10-percent of their equity for a special fund that would pay out dividends to workers and give them a greater role in shaping company strategy.

The dividends would be capped at £500 per employee, with any additional income going to a national fund for public services and welfare under the proposals announced on Monday.

"Workers, who create the wealth of a company, should share in its ownership and, yes, in the returns that it makes," he said.

"True industrial democracy is coming to this country," he added.

But Britain's ruling Conservatives said the proposals were "yet another tax rise" for businesses that could deter companies from hiring staff.

The Confederation of British Industry big business lobby warned that it could drive down investment.

"Their diktat on employee share ownership will only encourage investors to pack their bags and will harm those who can least afford it," CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said.

"If investment falls, so does productivity and pay," she said.