Monday, September 8, 2008

Argentina: Law Allowing Worker Exclusion from Ownership Unconstitutional

The Republic of Argentina certainly seems to have made a step in the right direction of establishing a more just social order. We recently received an e-mail from Dr. Maria-Theresa Rósón, a professor at the law school of the Catholic University of Buenos Aires, from which we've extracted the relevant passages.
"The Supreme Court of Argentina acknowledged the right of Telefónica de Argentina S.A. employees who claimed the right to participate in the profits and to hold shares of the privatized company.

"The Court declared that decree Nº 395/92, which since 1989 has regulated the privatizations of state-owned companies, is unconstitutional. Decree Nº 395/92 provided that it is not mandatory for privatized companies to allow employees to participate in ownership.

"The Supreme Court concluded that the program of widespread ownership created by law Nº 23.696, is protected by Article 14 of the National Constitution. The Court also affirmed that, due to the unconstitutionality of decree Nº 395/92, the damage suffered by the employees by being prohibited from owning a part of the company, and, therefore, the benefit enjoyed by the company, shall be taken into account by the judges when deciding the amount to be awarded to the employees. We think the employees' gain, as a result of the Supreme Court decision, will be significant since the privatized company made large profits."
Norman Kurland commented that perhaps the Argentine unionists will lead the world in transforming labor union into ownership unions. This would allow the benefits of ownership to be extended to all citizens, not just those who work in an enterprise. That would be the next logical step for enlightened and justice-oriented unionists. Steve Nieman and Richard Foley, the former a member of the airline pilots union, and the latter a retired member of the railway workers union (and both members of CESJ), have formed the first "ownership union." They are reaching out to all shareholders, including worker-shareholders, to gain more effective representation, management accountability, and governance rights in publicly-traded corporations.

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