Fewer rights for trade unions: many more for accountants

Professor of Accountancy, Prem Sikka, writes about the UK government, rushing a trade union bill through parliament to curb the rights of workers. The Bill imposes:

  • a minimum turnout of 50% for all binding ballots
  • a higher threshold for withdrawal of labour in public services
  • no electronic balloting for trade unions
  • maintains existing requirements such as one-person-one-vote,
  • no delegated proxy voting system
  • and election of all officers.
  • Trade unions can be held liable for damage to employers

He compares the government’s approach to power exercised by another organised group

Professor Sikka says that accountancy trade associations wield enormous power. Accounting logics promoted by accountancy trade associations influence the assessment of wages, pensions, dividends, taxes, utility prices and much more. Unlike conventional trade unions they have secured monopolies and niches for their members and these are guaranteed by the state.

The power of accountancy trade associations affects the life chances of all citizens. How democratic and accountable are they? He considers the case of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the largest UK-based accountancy trade association with annual income of £164m:

  • Its president, deputy-president, and vice-president are not directly elected by members.
  • For its business at the 2015 annual general meeting (AGM) 6,310 votes (turnout of 3.54 per cent) were cast.
  • Unlike trade unions, electronic voting is permitted. Of the nine seats for council, the candidate with 2,520 (1.41 per cent of the eligible vote) votes topped the poll and an individual with just 1756 votes, less than 1 per cent of the eligible vote, was elected..
  • This includes 650 votes cast by the President under a delegated proxy voting system, a system forbidden for trade unions, general, local, and the European and Mayoral elections.
  • Early Day Motions tabled in the House of Commons have condemned the ACCA’s lack of democratic practices.
  • Such pressures resulted in the appointment of the Electoral Reform Services to count ballots. Prior to that votes were counted by the chief executive.
  • Trade unions are not permitted to insert such recommendations on ballot papers.

The practices of accountancy trade associations affect every citizen, yet there is virtually no accountability to their own members, far less the general public. Prem Sikka summarises by email:

“The UK government is engaged in draconian trade union reforms. The ministers claim that tougher laws are needed because trade union practices affect members of the public. The same arguments also apply to accountancy trade associations because their members are involved in tax, accounting, auditing and insolvency scandals. The practices sanctioned by accountancy trade associations affect assessment of wages, pensions, dividends, taxes, utility prices and much more. These affect the lives of millions of people. However, there is little democracy, far less any public accountability”.


Prem Sikka is professor of accounting at the University of Essex

Posted on November 2, 2015, in Corporate political nexus, Democracy undermined, Finance, Inequality, Lobbying, Planning, Vested interests and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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