Socialist Worker

Fat cats fall out - why not skin 'em all?

Issue No. 1852

THE £22 million payout for GlaxoSmithKline boss Jean Pierre Garnier has revealed the obscene scale of the wealth, opulence and luxury at the top of society. It shows that nothing has changed under New Labour. Bosses are still awarding themselves millions in salaries, bonuses, share options and 'golden parachutes'. In fact the fat cats are revelling in an even more grotesque way than they did in Margaret Thatcher's heyday.

This week the mainstream media cheered on the GlaxoSmithKline shareholders who voted against the payout to Garnier. Britain's biggest drugs manufacturer is the latest in a stream of firms, like Barclays and Shell, to see shareholders' anger at meetings over bosses' pay packages.

But although it's good to see newspaper headlines attacking the fat cats, this is not about the small shareholder David slaying the multimillionaire Goliath. The most powerful shareholders are the institutional investors, the rich who wield a block vote.

In GlaxoSmithKline that included one of Britain's leading shareholders, Standard Life Investments, casting its vote against Garnier. These people are not angry at multimillion payouts. They just want to ensure that enough of the loot goes into their own pockets.

They may balk at the idea of a top boss getting millions while a company's share price is falling. But they agree that chief executives with 'talent' should be 'rewarded'.

That means a boss who can drive down wages, increase working hours and close down a decent pension scheme is worth a salary 50 times that of a worker. Monday's Mirror editorial says, 'The writing's on the wall for fat cats.' But it adds, 'Bosses who succeed are entitled to rich rewards.'

Perhaps that's why it doesn't brand Sir Victor Blank, chair of the Trinity Mirror Group, a fat cat even though he got a £175,000 payout last year. New Labour praises 'entrepreneurs' and welcomes million-pound donations from rich businessmen like Lord Sainsbury.

Yet it threatened to use the law to impose an appalling pay settlement on the firefighters and cuts in jobs and the service. Many workers, most recently public sector workers in London, have been agitating for their unions to take action over pay.

The scandal over wages in Britain isn't about a struggle between 'deserving' and 'undeserving' bosses. It is the fact that millions of workers have to struggle to get by on low pay, and that New Labour refuses to raise taxes on the rich parasites to fund the hospitals and schools we desperately need.

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What We Think
Sat 24 May 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1852
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