The rise and fall of employee-owned UK bus companies

Spear, Roger (1999). The rise and fall of employee-owned UK bus companies. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 20(2) pp. 253–268.



Privatization of the UK municipal bus services during the early 1990s led to a substantial part of the bus sector having high levels of employee owners. This provided interesting sites for exploring many features of financial and organizational participation in these companies. A subsequent cycle of economic concentration led to a wave of mergers and takeovers, and the demise of many of these employee-owned organizations as independent entities, though high levels of employee ownership persist in some of the four companies that now dominate the sector. Drawing mainly on secondary sources (especially the extensive study by Pendleton et al. at Bradford University), this article shows how the form of employee ownership developed by key actors at the formation stage succeeds in resolving many of the trade union and management concerns arising from previous examples of substantial employee ownership, and identified in previous research. However, the demise of most independent employee-owned companies has raised theoretical and strategic issues of their viability during periods of economic concentration.

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