A golden share for the workers? That's what's happened in Rotterdam

16 September 2018

A golden share for the workers? That's what's happened in Rotterdam

Foto: Rene Boulay

SP leader Lilian Marijnissen summed it up beautifully during yesterday's launch of the SP campaign 'Time for Justice' on the dock in Rotterdam: we want a golden share for all workers. No more takeovers against the wishes of the employees. Donner's bookshop in the same city is an example of this. Spirited workers saved the firm from bankruptcy and are now to a large extent the boss of the company. Later this year I'll be organising a meeting on this in the European Parliament, because European company law is about to be revised. It's time for justice – time for a golden share.

A great many Rotterdammers know the Donner bookshop, whose history goes back more than a century, before it was taken over by two bigger firms in succession, first by Selexyz and later by Polare, the reason given being the economies of scale which would result. But that's not what happened. Polare was a pitiful failure. Yet the Donner workers believed in their firm, which is more than just a bookshop, but also has its own theatre and a space for meetings. They started a crowdfunding action and worked day and night to make the opening date of a large proportion of the new shop on September 5th. The new shop is in a historic bank building on one of Rotterdam's main streets, the Coolsingel, where they were already housed provisionally after the restart, tackling that too in that difficult time of rebuilding and displacement with audacity and energy. Donner still exists, and how!

What a difference between this and the culture around big financial institutions. Ten years ago Lehman Brothers collapsed, going down under its own casino capitalism, and dragging us all down with it. They were 'too big to fail’, so we all had to pay up to save the banks. Donner shows where the future lies: with the people who best understand the firm at which they work. Give them that influence and you'll get good things in return, such as a fine temple of culture in the centre of town. In the European Parliament I'm going to do my very best to have this message resound in the legislation on workers' control in companies, especially when it comes to takeovers and other important investment decisions. If need be I'll send my colleagues on a working visit to Rotterdam, but one way or another that golden share must come.

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