(WASHINGTON) – Today, National Express Group PLC (LSE:NEX.L) investors, including British public service union UNISON and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, are criticising the company’s decision to withhold a shareholder resolution from its 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM) agenda. At last year’s AGM, the resolution received the highest shareholder vote of support ever achieved for a labour rights issue at a United Kingdom-based PLC.
National Express published the notice of its AGM on 8 April, but failed to include a shareholder resolution and members’ statement calling for an independent investigation into employment rights violations at the company’s largest revenue-producing business – North American school bus.
The resolution and statement, sponsored by UNISON’s staff pension fund, Teamsters General Fund, SEIU Master Trust and individual shareholders, was lodged with the company on 30 December 2015. No objection to its validity was raised by the company during the following three months. Only in April 2016 did the company state grounds for declining to include the resolution and statement, which the co-sponsors of the resolution consider to be open to challenge.
In a break with previous practice, the company also issued its AGM notice two weeks later than its annual report. This has reduced the time available for shareholders to appeal the non-inclusion of the resolution.
“This is a highly antagonistic move by a major British PLC to exclude a shareholder proposal on a critical ESG issue,” said Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, the union whose staff pension fund is one of the co-filers of the resolution. “Through its American subsidiary, Durham School Services, National Express is not only violating its employees’ workplace rights, it has now taken to silencing debate and suppressing shareholders’ voices.”
“Whether it’s in the bus yard or the boardroom, the behaviour of National Express is unacceptable,” said Ken Hall, General Secretary Treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “It is a disgrace that in the face of growing investor support for a proposal to address workers’ rights violations in its US subsidiaries, National Express sought to exclude the resolution rather than adopt it. Investors should be wary of any board that seeks to silence shareholders rather than heed their concerns.
“Over the past week, shareholders have expressed dismay both at the company’s handling of the resolution and the lack of progress on the issues that lie behind it.” said Hall.
Over the past two weeks the resolution proponents were in dialogue with shareholders representing more than 25 percent of the company’s issued shares, investor representation bodies, Members of Parliament and U.K. trade unions representing National Express workers. These meetings have helped raise awareness of the company’s anti-union and anti-shareholder behaviour.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.