The Abuse of Corporate Power


What is to be done about company bosses stirring up anxieties in their staff, dictating what their employees should think and vote in the Referendum? Tyranny.

CBI dictates

The CBI – Confederation of British Industry – has thrown its hat into the ring. A primarily English-based association of businesses that confuses “British” with all of the United Kingdom will not divulge how many members it has in Scotland. It brazenly undermines the democratic process by announcing, in effect, its membership is against any sort of self-determination for Scotland. The CBI repeats a similar stance it made public over devolution back in the day.

Barrhead puts the heid in

The boss of Barrhead Travel crossed the line. He adds his name to a list that includes the CEO of British Petroleum also warning of “big uncertainties,” whatever that means, (tomorrow’s weather is uncertain) and Tunnock’s, an idiosyncratic biscuit manufacturer.

Weir mans the pumps

One of Scotland’s most prestigious companies, the engineering businesses, Weir Group, has joined the fray. Audacity just about out-doing arrogance, the corporation ignores a previous attempt at social engineering when it failed in its attempt to resist evolutionary powers for Scotland. Now it’s back with “Destination 2”, panicking employees into voting against self-governance. It does not help its current contrary public relations that one of its directors is Lord George Robertson, he of the wildly loopy “cataclysmic disaster” that he predicts is certain to be Scotland unchained.

Weir claims “iScotland would work but carry with it increases in business costs.”

A major company can’t cope

So, coping with rises in material costs leaves Weir unable to adjust to predicted costs later? I don’t think so. Stating iScotland works presupposes there exists a nation with the mechanisms to solve unforseen problems. Of course, Weir mention nothing of voter empowerment, civil rights, or the pursuit of happiness. Why should it? It’s in the business of generating increased profits.

All bosses claim their expression of uncertainty is a personal opinion. Some state outright they will move their companies to England if Scotland attains autonomy. Three things are immediately evident from their disingenuous utterances.

The stark staring evidence

1. Made public, corporate remarks are calculated to sway opinion, in the main, to tell staff their jobs and career are at stake. Moving home jobs are lost. Companies will plan to hire anew at lower rates. The implicit threat of loss of livelihood amounts to intimidation. One can argue they indulge in blackmail – vote my way or face possible redundancy.

2. Corporations survive on state aid, grants, or loans at favourable rates. They receive tax concessions. They get concessions in local rates and infrastructure, roads, sewers, electricity costs, all incentives to create jobs. Put simply, the company aims to leave without repaying state investment.

3. Companies and corporations do not have civil rights. They are not individuals. A boss using his company’s facilities, personal letter, e-mails, conference declarations, is exercising a way of dominating staff. It is tantamount to blackmail.

Reverse the situation.

Imagine a member of staff using their company facilities to disseminate his opinion on a crucial political issue at odds with the view of the bosses. He’d be reprimanded if not fired.

The counter argument is staff have nothing to worry about. No one will know how they vote. There won’t be any recrimination. But to say that is to miss the obvious. They have been told by those who pay their wages that a vote against their company’s health will mean the company suffers. If the company suffers they suffer. That puts them in an invidious position: vote by conscience, or vote out of company loyalty. To do the latter discourages and negates the right to exercise free will.

Corporate control

I do not want private power to dictate how I choose my representatives.

It is self-evident an individual has the right of privacy, the privacy to make a political choice free of unwarranted, undemocratic influence or interference. In an ideal, genuine democracy regulation would exist prohibiting company chiefs subverting that right by indoctrination, threat, or bribe.

Ford Motors crimes

An extreme example of a corporation crushing democratic rights is the Ford Motor Company aiding a repressive regime, the military junta in Argentina, (1976-1983) where it had a factory. Ford took out a full-page advertisement in the national press stating support of the dictatorship – later denied as “support” – and then lending its trucks to help round-up troublesome union employees in the dead of night its executives had identified as “subversives.” The workers were interrogated, tortured, and many murdered by the regime’s forces. Later, Ford employees testified to the factory used as a place to keep detainees. Ford denied the charges, but an official investigation and a 5,000 page report later lays out the truth. Sadly, this example of corporate rule is not an isolated one.

One man, one vote

Corporations have board of directors, shareholders and investors, in addition to staff. What is their attitude to a renegade boss making public his personal opinion? He does not speak for them, yet they are the core of the firm’s legality. Are they not to be consulted? Do they exist merely to endorse corporate ambition without due diligence?

Emeritus Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy, and political activist, Noam Chomsky, opines in interview, “A corporation is a state created enterprise, state funded institution, a concentration of immense private power. There is no reason it should have the rights of a person.” (He was speaking against the US Supreme Court’s ruling allowing companies to donate unlimited sums to political parties.) Following Chomsky’s advice, perhaps we, the electorate, should state plainly, thus far and no further.

Company principals have the right to an opinion, certainly as a group, the same kind of public expression they often deny organised workers in a union. Captains of industry are entitled to harbour concerns about their company’s future, including, in this instance, what new rights a liberated Scottish government might accord to workers, or whether unions are given leave to return to their task of free bargaining, but that does not loosen bosses from the discipline of withholding unsolicited personal opinion.

The will of the people

What they fear is the right of the masses to make accountable their elected representatives, and in turn, to guarantee companies and corporations respect the democratic process absolutely. They want a constitutional system to protect the privileges of the opulent minority over the majority.

This is the destructive outcome of purely profit focussed free markets.

The habit of company barons and bosses thinking themselves possessing greater rights than the individual is deeply troubling. It is yet another indication of the whittling away of democracy, the rolling back of civil rights and liberties.

When company bosses mouth off against legitimate change they are expressing a hatred of democracy. A nation should not countenance attacks on constitutional reform by “personal” corporate diktat. It ought to be illegal.

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