By Michael RaceBusiness reporter, BBC News4 June 2023, 11:31 BST
Updated 5 hours ago
The computer software giant is one of 13 signatories to the letter supporting the CBI in its fight for survival
Tech giant Siemens, Microsoft and oil company Esso have signed a letter supporting the CBI ahead of a decisive vote on its future.
The firms are among 13 signatories to a letter seen by the BBC giving the business group a “mandate to proceed”.
The CBI is fighting for its survival after claims of sexual misconduct against staff led to an exodus of members including John Lewis and BMW.
The results of the “critical” vote will be announced next week.
The vote on a “program of change” is likely to be seen as a key moment for the future of the organization.
Asked if the lobby group would shut down if it lost support, CBI director-general Rain Newton-Smith told the BBC Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg was a “really nerve-wracking time”.
But Ms Newton-Smith, who described the vote as critical, said she was “absolutely committed to leading this program of change” so that the CBI could be a “collective voice for business”.
“It was absolutely devastating to read about some of these cases and I think, I hope, we are coming out of a really deep and painful crisis for us,” she added.
The CBI – the Confederation of British Industry – is one of the UK’s most prominent lobby groups. Her role is to speak to the government and share best practices on behalf of approximately 190,000 companies employing millions of people.
But in April, after allegations of harassment and assault emerged — including two claims of rape, one at a summer party in 2019 and another at a foreign office — some big-name celebrities cut ties with the group.
City of London Police are currently investigating the rape allegations.
Some members, such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, have suspended involvement with the group and the government has also suspended its activities with the CBI, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt stating that there was “no point” in working with it when its own members had it to leave.
Following an investigation by law firm Fox Williams, the CBI last week announced a “program of change” for the remaining members to vote on.
The reforms are designed to restore confidence in the body and include a renewal of the CBI board and the creation of a new committee that will focus on people and human resources. There will also be cuts in staff.
The 13 companies
The letter, signed by the firms backing the troubled lobby group, is expected to be published in Monday’s Times newspaper, the BBC understands.
“We believe the CBI has recognized its shortcomings and has established a robust action plan for new leadership to implement,” the letter reads.
“We support the CBI to change and move forward and this group will vote to give the organization a mandate to continue.
“This is not a blank check and we will hold the CBI accountable in carrying out its action plan.”
Carl Ennis, Siemens chief executive in Britain and Ireland, said the company believed the UK needed an “effective voice for companies of all sizes and across industries”.
“Their recovery plan, although it is only a start, indicates a path forward,” he told the BBC.
The CBI has suspended its own day-to-day operations over the allegations and will resume work only if members support its plans for change.
The group announced earlier this week that it would be letting staff go as it sought to cut wage bills by a third after it lost revenue from a drop in membership.
Asked if she would take a pay cut, Ms Newton-Smith said: “We are looking at all options.”
“My salary is already not as high as my predecessors,” she added. “What’s really important is that we protect as many jobs as possible with this. I don’t want to lose any colleagues.”
Former CBI director general Tony Danker was fired after being the subject of separate workplace misconduct complaints separate from the sexual assault and rape allegations, for which he has apologized.