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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


Tough at the top

HALF PAST FIVE on the first Wednesday of the New Year marked a great advance towards a more equal Britain. It was at that hour the bosses of Britain’s top 100 companies earned more than the average worker does in a year.

According to the High Pay Centre, chief executives in companies listed in the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 list overtook at that time the £31,461 annual median wage for full-time workers. That this is a positive sign for equality is based on the fact that Britain’s hard-working bosses had to toil for a strenuous 34 hours to earn their money rather than the 33 hours last year. This news must bring a great deal of comfort to the working class.

According to the BBC, bosses’ pay was flat last year whilst average wages rose slightly.

Luke Howard, the Centre’s Director, observed that CEO pay is about 120 times that of the typical UK worker. He adds that: “Estimates suggest it was around 50 times at the turn of the millennium or 20 times in the early 1980s.”

obvious

He also stated the bleeding obvious by saying: “Factors such as the increasing role played by the finance industry in the economy, the outsourcing of low-paid work and the decline of trade union membership have widened the gaps between those at the top and everybody else over recent decades.”

Daniel Pryor, of the rightwing Adam Smith Institute, defended this state of affairs claiming that: “Good management is more important than ever in a globalised world and small differences in top talent make a big impact on a business’s bottom line,” and that when CEOs unexpectedly pop their clogs “deaths have consistently affected stock price, profitability, investment and sales growth – for better or worse. Which is why it makes sense for firms to open their wallets to attract the best talent.”

On that logic, trade unions should increase the salaries of their General Secretaries so that they will be clever enough to win better deals for workers.

In response, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Frances O’Grady, said: “This tells you everything you need to know about how unfair our economy is. Our army of minimum wage workers – carers, shop assistants and delivery drivers – have kept the country going through the pandemic. Not these CEOs at the top raking in far more than their share.

“We must make the economy fair. If the government is serious about levelling up Britain, it needs to start by levelling up pay and conditions for those we most rely on and stop the threat to freeze key workers’ pay.

“Ministers must bring forward the long-awaited employment bill to end exploitative working practices like zero hours contracts, and boost rights and pay.”

At the Financial Times (FT) itself these trends are clear to workers on the ‘pink un’, who are up in arms because the former editor Lionel Barber ‘earned” pay and pension benefits worth £1.92 million in 2019 at the same time as profits in the British parts slumped from £8.2 to £1.89 million.

In response the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) chapel suspended pay negotiations. They said: “We ask for full transparency about all senior executive pay and performance targets, and demand that in future company accounts are shared with union reps well in advance of publication.”

It also added that: “The FT faces a substantial gender pay gap and most staff have had below-inflation pay rises for several years in a row. For one individual to leave the organisation with £1.92m, more than 70 times the level of a trainee salary at the FT, is a slap in the face for all staff who work tirelessly to produce an industry-leading newspaper and website with no pot of gold at the end of their career.

“We want to fix executive pay to a defined ratio with average pay and ask the company to share details of company accounts with union reps well in advance of publication. In 2018, in the aftermath of a previous scandal over executive pay at the Financial Times, we proposed putting elected reps on the FT board and that remains on the table for future talks; we believe that this is more necessary now than ever.”

how it works

That’s how capitalism works, and it is difficult to see how putting a union rep on the Board will change matters very much.

Barber claimed he earned his money with his 14-year editorship by transforming the paper from a loss-making business into a “successful digital-first news operation with a growing reader base”.

It is now the sixth most popular English language subscription news website in the world, employing 2,300 people, 700 of whom are journalists. It plans to make 64 redundancies, however.

The NUJ chapel has sternly condemned these moves, which will fall mostly in its Chinese operations.