LABOUR LEADER Ed Miliband wants workers to have a statutory right to request employee ownership when their businesses change hands.
He called for “a new culture of co-operative entrepreneurship” in the UK with a growing co-operative, mutual and employee-owned sector.
Mr Miliband said: “Employee buyouts show how self-help and mutuality can build resilience into our economy, saving productive businesses and decent work.
“These buyouts can be an attractive route for business succession because they transfer ownership to people with a genuine interest in an enterprise’s long-term success.
“That’s why we should explore giving employees a statutory right to request employee ownership during business succession.”
Employee-owned businesses include the John Lewis Partnership and engineering consultancy Arup.
The British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association reponded cautiously to Mr Miliband’s comments.
A spokesman said: “We would need to see more flesh on the bones but the important issue would be to ensure there is a level-playing field (in that) an employee-backed bid is treated exactly the same as any other bid.”
Others were less guarded. Jon Moulton, the private equity dealmaker, described the proposals as “barking mad”.
“It is not thought through and it would set up a major barrier to British industry and give entrepreneurs a serious reason not to invest,” Mr Moulton told the Financial Times.
Endless, the Leeds-based private equity investor that specialises in turning around struggling business, declined to comment when contacted by The Yorkshire Post.
Mr Miliband has come under fire in recent weeks for an alleged anti-business stance.
Speaking to the Guardian at the weekend, he said: “What I am saying is what the Archbishop of Canterbury has been saying, the International Monetary Fund has been saying, and the OECD has been saying – a more equal society is a more efficient society. I believe in wealth creation and company profits, and for the government to play its part, and we have been working closely with business to shape that agenda.”