Shareholders take on execs

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THe computer I am using to write this piece is flash.

It has oodles of memory, I’m told, and lots and lots of giga-thingies.

There is a rather natty logo on the black box which contains the gubbins (the bits which make it work).

And the screen is quite large, if somewhat grubby – but that’s only because I have a tendency to point too enthusiastically at things which interest me and in which I believe others should take an interest.

That said, I’m sure many will have gathered that I know rather less about computers than I know about the gaseous content of Pluto. Which is nothing.

But I do know that when we were first introduced to computers at work there was a feeling that we were witnessing a new start.

A New Industrial Revolution, when wonder-machines would take the weight from the shoulders of white collar workers, had dawned.

Soon, though, another reality dawned... that computerisation meant that profit margins could go up as staff numbers went down.

Was that also the moment the starting pistol was fired in the race for mega-buck salaries in our board rooms?

It must have had a starting point and I can think of no more significant moment than when computers landed on our desks.

The greed with which the top-paid gorged themselves on company profits is nothing short of obscene.

What is worse is that it has got worse!

Executive pay has gone through the roof while workers, thousands of them, have gone through the door, sacrificed for the greater good of the company.

The statistics are mind-boggling. Between 1995 and 2005, Chief Executive Officer pay went up by 298 per cent.

Meanwhile, their workers were expected to make do with meagre pay rises of around 4.3 per cent.

Last year, blue-chip company CEOs enjoyed a general pay rise of 32 per cent while other executive pay went up by 13.9 per cent, compared with a 2 per cent rise in workers’ pay if they were lucky.

For there are still plenty being told that companies (whole sectors) are struggling and pay must be frozen.

But here’s a contradiction. If companies are struggling, why do those at the top keep getting away with voting themselves ever fatter salaries? Aren’t they supposed to be the new Masters of the Economic Universe, who are able to move and shake at the drop of a hat? Who insist that their pay checks are the just rewards of a job well done.

Job well done?

The economy is teetering on the brink of disaster, share prices are disastrously low and the only solution successive CEOs seem to be able to come up with is to cut jobs and make the rest of us work even harder.

How does that measure up to being a job well done?

At least the fightback has started with the Shareholder Spring.

This is where people who have shares in companies have started questioning the right of the people at the top to syphon off so much money.

A few bosses have walked away.

Good. That should send a clear message to the rest that they need to give their moral compass a bit of a tap and get it pointing in the direction of decency.