Access by the workers to ownership of the means of production

General principles

One thing is the collective representation of the workers in the company and another very distinct thing is the intervention of the workers in the company as a consequence of their owning part of the means of production. This intervention is a reality, collective representation is an illusion.

Collective representation is nothing more than a bad system of public relations. Through the Works Committees, some communication is begun with the company but it is insufficient to make the workers feel like something more than simple subjects of salaried work. The worker wants to feel linked to the company with deeper ties, he wants to benefit from part of the proceeds and see how «his company» prospers and grows. By supplying the worker with the means necessary to access ownership of part of the company, he is given, at the same time, self-defense against industrial dehumanization.

The form in which industry has grown, driven by the technological revolution, the presence of a large concentration of capital is demanded, while the human element has been submerged in the most absolute anonymity. The person is substituted by the man, the worker is converted in the appendage of the machine, the technician is absorbed by the equipment, and individual invention by collective research. In such conditions, the worker is at the mercy of the coldness of completely impersonal labor relations. The larger the company, the more insignificant he feels, so diminished, that when they tell him that he is represented before the company by the Works Committee, it is taken as a joke.

The worker’s intervention in the company will be shown in another way as long as we accept the premise that the intervention should be a consequence of co-ownership, and that this co-ownership should not be symbolic but real, sufficiently for the participation of the workers to be effective.

Integration of workers in the company

1. The company is an economic unit.

2. The company has a sole management body, named through statutes and in accordance with the positive order.

3. The workers intervene in the company by their own right, being co-owners of the company together with the capital element.

4. The workers have a double relationship with the company: first forming an economic block contributing 50 percent of the company capital. The other one is the normal worker/employer relationship, in which the work contract prevails.

5. The work – capital relationship should be one of parity, that is, different levels of participation of the workers are not contemplated under or above fifty percent. It is convenient, from the beginning, not to strive for supremacy in the economic participation of work above that of capital, or vice versa. A period of real and frank union is initiated between capital and work, in equality of rights and duties, with common goals and pursuing, for both blocks, the maximum profitability of the company.

6. Sole managerial body. The interests of the company should prevail which are the interests of the capital-work components.

7. The integration of the workers in the managerial bodies is a function of their economic participation and not of their union membership or of their status as a worker.

8. The workers, simply by working in the company, have the non-transferable and unrenounceable right and duty to participate in the ownership of the means of production. This right is lost only in the case of no longer forming part of the staff.

Economic foundation

I base the project of this contractual figure on three premises:

a) Need for its legal treatment supported by requirements of a practical nature.
b) Approach compatible with the present economic order.
c) Its evolution is not conflictive, that is, it does not contradict certain basic structures.

The economic basis for worker participation in the company with the Partnership Contract comes about from necessity. This participation is not an emotional concession, nor does it form part of an experiment aimed at flattering the working class and, even les, a veiled means to annoy the employers. On the contrary, it is a necessary road imposed by the deterioration that can enter the capital-worker relationships.

The worker’s participation in the company is imposed as a result of the review of the regulation concerning work contracts. This working relationship is the affirmation of benefits and counter-benefits, work and salary, workers and employers: two opposing forces in a contradictory struggle in which each side tries to attain portions of the economic proceeds that are becoming more and more scarce.

The phenomenon of final closing of the companies is not cyclical but structural. The economic crisis is not caused by a lack of consumption or by overproduction, but rather it is a crisis of absence of participation. The collapse of the companies is from not being able to cover the always growing costs, with the labor element at the head of the list, without finding a counterpart in productivity and, consequently, in the profitability of the company. Any solution that one tries to find that does not have assuring the profitability of the company as a central point is destined to fail. This profitability can be assured in two forms:

a) Repairing the present economic structures, which can give a long or short breathing space, but it will not assure, at any level, that unemployment will not attack.

b) With the alternative of slowly introducing a new work system with profitability as the key point, shared and distributed profitability with parity between employers and workers.

The following parameters should be established:

c) It is fair that the workers want to have higher income that is sufficient for them to enjoy a higher standard of living.
d) It is fair that the investing employers aspire to achieving the profits that compensate their investment and its consequent risk. On the contrary, it is fair that they abstain from investing and prefer to obtain benefits in the form of interests on the capital that they loan, not even buying Public Debt.

3. The cause of the problems of the company is the lack of profitability and one of the main causes in this lack is the always-rising cost of wages and salaries, only sustainable for the company if the capital investment is profitable.

All these comments can be converted in simple ramblings if we limit ourselves to pointing them out and thinking that we have finished our part of solidarity, contemplating impassibly how the employers liquidate their companies for lack of profitability and the workers go to increase the lines of the unemployed temporarily living on the public treasury. No. We should look for solutions. Solutions that provide real jobs, not indefinite promises. The Project “globalizehousing”, a fundamental part of The Third Way, provides immediate employment. The political initiatives planned only to increase the electoral volume, are converted into frustrations for those who need a job, causing indigence, abandonment and desperation, three components that stupefy and break down millions of the unemployed.

I will transcribe here the words directed towards employers and workers –to the working world—by the Holy Father John Paul II in the Montjuic district in his visit to Barcelona, in the 1980’s. He said:

«The lack of work goes against the “right to work”, understood –in the global context of the other basic rights—as a primary necessity, and not a privilege, to satisfy the vital needs of human existence through labor activity.» «From prolonged unemployment come insecurity, lack of initiative, frustration, irresponsibility, distrust of society and of oneself: thus the capacity for personal development degenerates; enthusiasm, love for goodness are lost; family crises, desperate personal situations arise, and one falls easily –especially the young people—in drugs, alcoholism and crime.»

«The Church, through its Social Magisterium, recalls that fair solutions to this serious problem require today a revision of the overall economic order. Comprehensive planning is needed, not just the sectoral planning of the economic production: A correct and rational organization of work is necessary, not only on the national level but also internationally: solidarity of all working men is needed. The State cannot resign itself to the constant support of high unemployment: the creation of new jobs must constitute an economic as well as political priority.»

Immediate Advantages of the Partnership Contract

a) Labor tension disappears. Capital and work united in a partnership have the same common interests, equality of opportunities and risks.
b) The tendency for work to absorb the economic product to the detriment of the business’ profitability will disappear. With the reciprocal interest in the profitability of the company, productivity is established as the norm.
e) The traditional concept of employers and workers and their differences disappears. Now there exists a society where fifty percent of the capital belongs to the simple investors and the other fifty percent to the worker investors. The former will collect their dividend; the latter will collect their salary and, in addition, together the workers will divide fifty percent of the profits of the company, that is, the capital investor only collects dividends, while the capital that, in addition to being an investor, works, collects dividends and salary.
f) The workers, in their capacity as capitalist partners, will intervene in the management of the company. They will have representatives who, together with the representatives of the rest of the corporate capital, will report to all the partners of the company, with no discrimination among them, as the partnership has a unitary character.
g) There will be no need for a Works Committee, because they are created for a different type of company than what is being set up. The Committee had the function of representing the personnel before the company, and now the personnel is the company. Therefore, the matters that are raised and discussed will be related to the problems concerning the business activity such as the market situation, production plans, future projections, productivity and quality selection. The internal union protagonism changes, as its traditional intervention is no longer necessary. External representation will be limited to the individual action of the workers, but not in their capacity as partners of the company and without repercussions in it.
f) All personnel participates in the ownership of the company, without exception, according to their professional category, which will stimulate training and promotion to higher positions, by representing not only an increase in salary, but also a possible improvement in the amount of proceeds of the company.
g) A natural selectivity will arise among the personnel and an interested desire for improvement. At the same time self-control in labor responsibility and productivity will be stimulated, since they are protecting common interests and working for what is «their property». The workers themselves, with the sole weapon of responsibility, will be those that put an end to the problem of work absenteeism. All will have the right to participate in the distribution of the proceeds of the company, because of their work.

Next Editorial March 30, 2002

Contract Prototypes

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Francisco Montaner

Globalizing housing with zero cost