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Hugh Wheelan: Unions are stepping up the naming and shaming of fund managers on workers’ rights

Hugh Wheelan: Unions are stepping up the naming and shaming of fund managers on workers’ rights

CWC affiliates are working on asset manager report cards.

CWC conference 2019, Paris

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The Committee on Workers Capital. (CWC) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
As it hits two decades, CWC is getting bolder in its efforts to name and shame asset managers it believes are not upholding workers’s rights.
For those who may not have tuned into its work, the CWC is an international trades union network of 700 participants from 25 countries pushing for responsible investment of workers’ retirement savings. That, after all, is what much institutional investment capital is. Many of those workers are trades union members with a clear, vested interest in knowing that their pension savings are aligned with the work of their unions, as well as seeking sound, long-term returns. The CWC has heft as a joint initiative of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Global Unions Federation and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC). I’ve seen its work develop over the years from a small gathering of committed, financially-savvy union officials to a much broader gathering of the labour movement. Its 2019 Paris conference last month may have been a

junior event to the PRI in Person (with half of it taking place on a Sunday…that’s dedication!), but the debates – as might be expected – ran closer to the knuckle on the social issues that can run contrary to workers’ interests. A major aim of CWC is more dialogue between union-affiliated pension trustees and their asset managers to push labour concerns at the company and investment level. Hugues Letourneau, who manages CWC, said it wants to stop S being the ‘poor country cousin’ in ESG. A recent example has been union engagement with investors led by Unite Here on the wages and conditions of hotel workers in the Marriott chain in the US. Unite Here represents workers in the hotel, gaming and food service industries and notes that its 270,000 members are beneficiaries of pension funds with over $60bn in assets. Unions are getting increasingly bullish about naming and shaming investment managers they believe are not protecting workers’ rights. Unite Here runs a website where it lists what it calls ‘irresponsible’ fund managers.
And members of CWC are working on asset manager report cards to show where they believe fund managers are not pushing investee companies on best practices for protecting workers’ rights. This might, for example,

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