Thursday 24 September 2009

Myners' bid to publish pay scales shines light on gap

City minister Lord Myners' proposal to have companies disclose the pay of the 20 highest paid employees may go some way to detailing the breadth of the pay gap, if not providing the transparency to do something about closing it.
Myners also called for the pay of all employees to be banded in grades to show the width of that pay gap.
The publication of this information would shine a light on the practises of financial firms which choose to pay a group of people an enormous amount of money, while putting pressure on employees at the very bottom of the wage pyramid to take pay freezes.
Few people would disagree that if you have special talents or work particularly hard you should be rewarded, as a Fabian/YouGov poll on pay showed.
But it is the massive gap that the general public object to, particularly when astronomic salaries are being paid by publicly owned banks, supported by the tax of people on average salaries.
As yet those who are living on the bonus hog, have done little to acknowledge their enormous salaries have contributed to creating a pulled-out-of-shape economy and to out-of-control house prices.
Public tax money is now being used to prop up banks - which we do need as a public good in a modern society -- but the argument to use part of that cash to help prop up high level salaries is not appealing. Surely there should be safeguards in place to show that efforts are being made to use tax payers cash wisely - and that bonuses would be reigned back until loans are repaid?
This would be normal practise in a normal company, striving to pay back a loan, and survive a difficult market, so why isn't it being followed by the publicly backed banks?
Tax payers, who are struggling themselves, would feel happier about supporting a company that acted more thriftily in a tough market, than one that seemed to be continuing to pay senior staff at pre-recession levels.
Myners' plan would at least go some way towards throwing open the windows on the boardrooms of the City to reveal the culture of secrecy around boardroom pay.
And more could be done to communicate the value of paying tax - avoiding tax/offshoring is still seen as a macho achievement by many in the City.
While the Daily Mail and others have been running a campaign against the payment of decent public sector pensions to teachers, nurses and others who work hard to help Britain's core service to operate, it should do more to highlight high earners unwillingness to pay tax, while happily collecting tax benefits where they can.

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