Union leaders have called on Theresa May to re-instate plans to force companies to appoint workers to company boards following the collapse of outsourcing firm Carillion in January.

The Trades Union Congress, the umbrella group for 49 unions representing 5m workers, said if workers had been on the Carillion board then the company’s managers may not have acted in such a ‘cavalier’ fashion.

Carillion is the subject of a major inquiry by MPs and regulators after being forced into compulsory liquidation last month, leading to the loss of 1,300 jobs and 28,000 pension scheme members now facing cuts to their retirement income.

“The government needs to be bold and for workers to be put on boards of our companies so workers can have a say on the decisions that affect their working lives,” said Paul Nowak, deputy general secretary of the TUC, speaking at the TUC’s annual pensions conference in London.

“If we had workers on boards, would we have seen such reckless behaviour [in the corporate sector]? Would Carillion’s managers have treated their staff in such a cavalier fashion . . . I don’t think so”.

In 2016, Mrs May set out plans to put workers on company boards as part of a wider agenda to crack down on irresponsible business behaviour and empower consumer representatives.

But the idea caused consternation among executives and prompted unease among some Cabinet ministers, who feared it would be both unpopular and unworkable in practice.

Mrs May later ruled out putting workers on boards, instead moving to have the voices of workers heard through ‘advisory panels’.

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