The Train Driver Who Sits in the Boardroom with the Bosses

Mick Barker, a 57-year-old train driver from Luton, is Theresa May’s red dream made flesh. When the prime minister-elect gave a speech on Monday to tingle Britain’s socialist parts, promising to rein in corporate excess, the most eye-catching pledge from a Conservative leader was to appoint workers to the board. In one British FTSE 250 firm, employing 110,000 staff worldwide, they have already done it. Barker doubles as employee director for First Group, which runs Great Western and TransPennine railways as well as local bus services across Britain, and has had such workers’ representatives on its various boards since inception. The idea was in the firm’s roots as a management and worker buyout of Aberdeen’s municipal bus firm in 1989. Now all of its main British businesses – 12 bus firms and the two rail franchises – have their own employee director, elected by the staff. Those elected directors also vote one of their own to the group board, which is how Barker went from driving First Capital Connect trains to discussing shareholder revolts over the course of a few months in 2012.

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