CalSTRS, APG back labour rights proposal at National Express as motion gets 15% support

Leading institutional investors back rare UK human rights resolution

It’s emerged that some major institutional investors such as the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and Dutch pension investment giant APG backed a shareholder motion calling for an independent monitoring program at UK transport group National Express’s US school bus subsidiary, Durham School Services.

CalSTRS also voted against chairman Sir John Armitt and CEO Dean Finch and other directors at the AGM yesterday (May 6), according to voting records on its website. APG voted against remuneration policy.

The labour-rights resolution was submitted by the Teamsters General Fund, members of the Local Authorities Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) and 100 individual shareholders.

The board had recommended investors to vote against it, saying it “strongly believes such an assessment is unnecessary”.

But the resolution received a total 15.38% support – up from 12.83% support for a similar motion at last year’s AGM. It was the largest vote in favor of a shareholder resolution on labor rights at a UK-listed company in the past decade, the Teamsters said.
Richard Greening, the Deputy Mayor of Islington in North London, representing the Islington Council PensionFund, spoke up in favour of the resolution, saying an independent review “would be a good way to focus back on the prosperity of the company, health and safety of the workplace and excellent customer service—it’s what we all want to see”.

The vote followed a letter to the company by 32 members of the US Congress calling for an independent review of Durham. And over 30 UK MPs supported a Parliamentary ‘Early Day Motion’ on the issue this year.

There was also a report by UK Labour MPs Ian Lavery and Jim Sheridan alleging labour rights violations at Durham, which the company has refuted.

It also emerged that Doreen Lawrence, the influential mother of a teenager murdered in a racist attack in 2003 and who is now a member of the House of Lord’s upper chamber, met with US civil rights group the NAACP to discuss civil and human rights and workplace conditions at Durham. Dot Scott, president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP attended the AGM in support of the motion.

The AGM was also attended by wheelchair athlete and disability rights campaigner Susan Cook as part of the ‘AGM Army’ of campaign group ShareAction.