Australian Trade Unions as Shareholder Activists: The Rocky Path Towards Corporate Democracy

Thomson Legal and Regulatory Ltd
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Sydney Law Review, 2006, 28 pp. 227 - 258
Issue Date:
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This article examines the use of the "100 shareholder rule' by trade unions to address the common concerns ofworkers and shareholders such as the work safety perfonnance of corporations. The shareholder action by the Transport Workers' Union at the 2003 Boral Annual General Meeting is used as an illustrative example of union shareholder activism. In light of the withdrawal ofconsultation with trade unions by way of labour law mechanisms, particularly tbe individualisation and union exclusion tbat has marked Australian workplace relations in recent years, shareholder activism is an important avenue for trade unions to pursue their concerns. Consequently, this article argues for maintaining the' 100 shareholder rule' (part of which is undcr threat by federal governl11ent proposals) pal1icularly so that it can continue to be used by worker shareholder groups. Two theories of the corporation - the director-centrcd stakeholder theory and the del110crutic theory - are considered as theoretical devices to .i ustify un ion shurcholder activism. It is argued that whilst both theories may huve some merit in this context, the democratic theory provides the best foundation for union shareholder activism.
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