Many of us dread the monthly credit card statement and plan, maybe, for a leaner month. But for CEOs such as Persimmon’s Jeff Fairburn, who was recently awarded a bonus of almost £110m, “it will still feel like Christmas”. The same goes for lavishly rewarded university vice-chancellors and the handful of GPs identified as earning more than £400,000 a year. You might have thought greater transparency over high pay awards would foster moderation, but quite the contrary: for the big beasts of the corporate “jungle”, knowing what other people get simply fuels demand for ever-higher pay. It’s about status, not about need.
Yet excessive pay awards are dangerously corrosive: they destroy staff morale and fray the ties that bind societies together. As inflation eats into wages, the issue will become a political “flashpoint”. If businesses won’t take action, the Government should legislate to make shareholder votes on pay binding. “The rest of us should start buying shares and voting.” (Camilla Cavendish, The Sunday Times)
I remember, at business school, being told that “talent was multi-national”, and that to compete European businesses had to at least match American remuneration. Thus the rot spreads. British businessmen gleefully point to the salaries of similar companies in America and, presumably, threaten to move elsewhere if they don’t get the same or similar pay, without reference to cost of living or the widening gap with the workers. This bogus stuff was being touted by business schools in the 1980s! Reform them or close them down, the business schools I mean. They can be useful introduction to finance for a small minority, but otherwise they are of little use to society. In my opinion.