Saturday, December 2

Most Britons back curbs on bosses’ pay, survey finds | Executive pay and bonuses

Six in 10 people think company bosses should be prevented from earning more than 10 times the average paid to employees, according to polling shared exclusively with the Guardian.

A poll for the High Pay Centre, a thinktank that campaigns for fairer pay for workers, found that 63% of Britons said chief executives should be paid no more than 10 times the earnings of lower- or mid-ranking employees.

The survey of 1,104 UK adults found that only 3% of people thought it was appropriate for chief executives to get paid more than 50 times the company’s average pay.

In reality, bosses of the 350 biggest UK-listed companies are paid 53 times more than the median employee, according to separate High Pay Center research published in December 2020. A total of 43 bosses of FTSE 350 companies received more than 100 times as much as the average employee.

Luke Hildyard, the director of the High Pay Centre, said the research revealed “the extent to which the lives of those at the top and those of everybody else have become so far removed from each other”.

I added: “That’s probably not a healthy development.

“Britain’s biggest employers dedicate a significant amount of their budget to the pay of a small number of top earners. Redirecting some of this money to low- and middle-income workers would be a good way to raise living standards and address the cost of living crisis but it will require policymakers and business leaders to be a bit more open-minded about whether those at the top really need to be paid so much.”

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Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company that makes the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, was the highest paid FTSE 100 CEO in 2020, receiving £15.5m. The other top earners were Experian’s Brian Cassin, who got £10.3m, CRH’s Albert Manifold, with £10m, Laxman Narasimhan of Reckitt Benckiser, with £9.2m, and Berkeley’s Rob Perrins, who collected £8m in 2020 (the latest full-year figures available).

On an hourly basis, the average FTSE 100 chief executive makes more money in four days than the average UK worker earns in the entire year.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, said: “The whole workforce deserves to share in the success of a firm, not just those in the boardroom. But over the years executive pay has raced ahead of other workers – and now it’s at stratospheric levels.

“It’s time to set a maximum ratio between the top earner in each firm and other workers. There should be workers on remuneration committees, to ground decisions in the interests of the whole workforce. And incentive schemes should be open to all workers on the same terms, instead of just giving big bonuses to executives.”

The High Pay Center polling also found that many respondents felt policy measures aimed at distributing wealth more evenly would be more likely to raise living standards than those aimed at increasing economic growth.

More than half (56%) of respondents said policies to ensure wealth is shared more evenly would be the best way to improve living standards for those in the middle and at the bottom, while 33% said measures that increase economic growth would be best.

Gary Smith, the general secretary of the GMB union, which represents 600,000 workers, said: “The very wealthiest raking in a fortune as the average person struggles to make ends meet just isn’t fair. And the British public agrees.

“We’re facing a cost of living crisis. Chief executives’ sky-high pay is a kick in the teeth to working people who make the profits that the richest benefit from.

“We need decent pay rises for working people – and the GMB is fighting for that in workplaces up and down the country.”

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