One of the many concerning aspects of capitalism in the 21st Century is the way reward has become divorced from effort. By this, I do not mean the enormous pay given to entertainers and sportspeople; I do not even mean the vacuous “celebrities” amassing vast fortunes from posting pictures of their backsides on the internet. No, I am concerned that some organisations are paying massively over the odds for what is essentially administrative and/or secretarial work.
The BBC carried this report about the head of Australia Post earning $5.6million last year. The article says that this is ten times what the Prime Minister earns but a fairer comparison would be with what a postman earns. The CEO is getting more than 120 times what Postman Pat is earning. Are Australia Post really saying the boss is worth 120 times more than a postman or that he works 120 times harder? The argument goes that you have to pay these vast salaries to get the best people but this is complete and utter nonsense. I’ll make Australia Post an offer; I’ll be their CEO for 5% of what they are paying, which means I can hire 19 other people to help me do the job. Are Australia Post suggesting their current CEO works harder and is worth as much as 20 people earning $280,000 a year (three and a half times the average Australian salary in 2016)?
This disconnect is evident in pay scales all over the world. In the holy NHS, the highest paid chief executive earns £172,000 whilst the lowest earning nurses are paid £15,251 (11 times in the CEO’s favour). Even the highest paid nurse can only earn about half (£99,437) of the CEO’s pay, and I bet their aren’t many nurses on that rate.
The repellent Sepp Blatter, former head of the ludicrously corrupt FIFA, reportedly earned £2.6 million in 2015. Blatter is an accountant by training, he is not a football person. The average pay for an accountant is £52,092. Blatter was being overpaid by a factor of fifty.
Modern crony capitalism continues to pile undeserved rewards on the people at the top of the pay scale. In the United Sates in 1950, the average CEO earned twenty times as much as a worker (still too much). By 1980 the ratio was 42-1, in 2000 it was 120-1 and in 2013 it had risen to a barely credible 204-1! This is an increase of 1000%.
Gary Lineker is one of numerous micro-“celebrities” who has taken to Twitter to show he cares about the plight of ordinary folks. Lineker’s reported £2,000,000 a year salary is 128 times the UK minimum wage and it takes 13,745 licence fees to cover his pay.
I do not dispute that some jobs deserve more pay than others. I dispute the obscene differentials that have grown behind the people who actually do a job – nurses, postmen, shelf stackers – and the “directors” and “officers” who sit at the summits of organisations drawing massive salaries doing what is essentially administrative and secretarial work.
This is a cause that would get massive appeal for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Instead of obsessing about garbage like the incompetent, inefficient, corrupt EU or identity politics or trying to appease the Anglophobes of the Scottish Nazi Party, the Labour Party should concentrate on bringing the undeserved pay of top earners under control. It is time to look at both a maximum wage and a universal income. Unfortunately, when one looks at the current Labour frontbench, it is stuffed with people who have come up through exactly the overpaid jobs I have been criticising.
Can’t get this song out of my head.