Many are forced to go without while corporate CEOs are paid too much

Contributed by Joe Montero

Australian wage earners, and especially those on Centrelink benefits, are doing it tougher these days. In contrast, some of the CEO’s managing the biggest corporations operating in Australia have never had it so good.

At a time when so many are finding it harder to make ends meet, the Covid pandemic keeps on wreaking havoc, and the economy is not running on all cylinders, this growing gulf between these few at the top and just about everyone else, is a scandal.

In most cases, it can’t even be argued that these payments are a reward for more real business activity and contributing to the economy. The reward is for looking after the big shareholders, by padding the bottom line through combinations of cutting wages and working conditions, getting generous government handouts, and the misuse of JobKeeper money.

This is parasitic behaviour. The gains come at the expense of others. At the top of the list are stagnant wages and the explosion of cheap casualised labour, helped along by the government’s deliberate keeping down of Centrelink payments. And there has been a big rise in government handouts. Most of the bonanza has ended in the hands of the biggest shareholders. Little of it has been reinvested in real jobs and the economy according data in the Reserve Bank report just released.

Even without this rorting, so few getting so much while many are struggling, is morally indefensible. This is greed, pure and simple. It is not the fuel on which Australia should be driving if we want to be a fair and caring society. In fact, this sort of profiteering should be outlawed.

At the top of the CEO list is Paul Perreault, the chief of multinational biotechnology giant CSL He took home  a whopping $43,044,606 for the Last financial year. He got $30.53 million in the previous year. His counterpart at Northern Star, Bill Beaument, got $31,783,929. Get  the picture?

The list below shows the 20 highest paid CEOs. Mining companies, financiers, pharmaceuticals, and developers, make up most of it. The winners have the advantages of lucrative government contracts and handouts.

(Source: ACSI report, ‘CEO PAY IN THE ASX200’, 2021)

Not all corporate CEOs enjoyed pay  rises last year. This doesn’t change much. The reported 3 percent average decrease only makes a small dent in the leaps of recent years. They have been so obvious that they have fuelled public anger. Many corporations have decided pull for now, to improve their public image. There is as the reality the fall in business activity due to the pandemic

These factors have not moved those who are prepared to use  every advantage for their own benefit, regardless of the cost to others.

Photo from AAT/Getty: Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci; Qantas CEO Alan Joyce; CSL CEO Paul Perreault

Woolworths was able to stay open while smaller competitors were forced to close their doors. They profiteered by ramping up prices, and using low wages and more casual staff.

CSL shares have done well, mainly through recent takeovers of smaller rivals, and most importantly, last year’s takeover bid by Credit Suisse.

Despite being shut down for the most part, Qantas got away with huge government handouts. They topped the list of companies abusing government handouts. Despite getting a pay cut last year, It’s chief  Alan Joyce went home with $10,744,156.

This rorting feeds the distrust of big business, and the longer it goes on,  the stronger the angry response is going to be. They will have no one else to blame but themselves if this comes to pass.

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