Scottish Labour to give workers right to first refusal when companies up for sale

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Workers will be offered the right to buy their companies if they are up for sale or facing closure, the Labour Party has announced. And the party has backed up its proposals with research showing that employee-owned firms make more money.

The number of such businesses in Scotland is still small. According to Scottish Government figures, only about 100 out of the 42,435 businesses in Scotland were worker-owned in 2017.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

They were, however, more profitable. Businesses owned by their workers or co-operatives turn over almost £4 million more each year than other companies, according to Scottish Labour’s analysis of the figures.

The party found worker-owned businesses in Scotland had an average turnover of £9.4 million in 2017, compared with £5.66m for other businesses with at least five employees.

Commenting on the figures ahead of his speech at the STUC conference in Dundee today, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “It looks like workers are beating the bosses when it comes to company turnover, which is no surprise because common ownership gives everyone a stake in the success of a company.

“Our economy should not just be left to the market.

“We need active engagement with Scotland’s working people to develop our economy for the many and not just the few.”

Scottish Labour said it wants to significantly increase the number of co-operatives and worker-owned businesses in Scotland’s economy, by introducing a “right to own” similar to Italy’s Marcora Law, which allows workers to buy their companies when they are put up for sale or face closure.

Leonard added: “In government, Labour will give more people a stake – and a say – in our economy by doubling the size of the co-operative sector and introducing a ‘right to own’, making employees the buyer of first refusal when the company they work for is up for sale.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “All the evidence tells us worker ownership delivers benefits to performance, the people who work in them and the places in which they are located.

“The health of the Scottish economy depends on having a diverse range of business-types and employee ownership clearly has an important role to play in that.

“We want to make it easier for companies and workers to find out more about this model and to move towards it if it’s right for them.

“Partners like Scotland for EO and Co-operative Development Scotland will help to make this into a real option.”