|Fat Cats earn a year's average wage by Friday lunchtime|
Imagine you only had to work 3 days to get the average wage of a typical full-time worker in the country. To have all that free time for other pursuits, personal development and participation in the running of workplaces, the economy and society - and still earn the current median full-time annual income of £29,574.
But here's the critical clarification: we are not talking about a 3-day week on this annual income; that's a whole other article for another time. We mean 3 days in the entire year of 2019!
Fat Cat Friday
Last year it was dubbed Fat Cat Thursday, because the average Chief Executive of the FTSE 100 top companies could match the entire income of the average worker in the first three days of 2018. This year it was Fat Cat Friday, 4th January - not because it took these corporate fat-cats any longer to pile up a year's average worker's wage, but purely because New Years Day moved by a day.
The latest report by the High Pay Centre has mind-blowing statistics on the nauseating inequality at the heart of capitalism. The top bosses in the biggest 100 companies in Britain - the FTSE 100 - awarded themselves an average pay package of £3.9million last year. That's £1,020 an hour! It's 133 times as much as the average full-time worker earns.
As an earlier report (August 2018) from the same source showed, it's an annual income that workers aged 25 and more, on the government's deliberately misnamed National Living Wage, would have to work for 386 years to earn! Not a particularly realistic option, the last time I checked life expectancy figures!
Galloping Gap in Incomes
And contrary to the deceitful rhetoric of the Tories and their ilk, there is no trend towards greater fairness in pay, nor any tackling of the obscenity of boardroom greed by an outbreak of shareholders' democracy. Quite the opposite; the average FTSE 100 CEO had an 11% pay increase compared to the previous year - at a time when average workers' pay rises hovered around 1.7%. An annual pay package of £3.9m compared with £3.45m.
And the gap is galloping ahead between bosses' and workers' pay. In 1998, the average FTSE 100 chief executive earned 47 times as much as the average full-time worker. In the past 12 months, it has risen from a differential of 120:1 up to 133:1. Overall, the gap has tripled in the last 20 years, with no sign of slowing up or narrowing. After all, it's the Remuneration Committees of these top companies - made up of chief executives and directors of other companies! - which decide the pay packages.
Talk about nepotism and corruption! It's built into the very DNA of capitalism.
Talk about nepotism and corruption! It's built into the very DNA of capitalism.
That's why these overlords of capitalist exploitation could've clocked off at 1pm on Friday 4th January and still go home with the £29,574 it will take the average full-time worker the whole of the year to earn - if the latter still has a job!
Morally Repugnant - Economically Destructive
Not only is this pay inequality obscene, but there is no justification for it whatsoever, and it doesn't even make economic sense.
Capitalist apologists often trot out claims that such salaries are a just reward for 'the risk takers' at the top of corporations. What risks?
They hire and fire workers educated by the state, kept well by the NHS, and trained with the aid of lavish state handouts to companies. The same companies grab massive state aid for research and development. They rely on state-funded transport and communications networks to do their daily business, to amass their private profits with the aid of public subsidies. And then, in pursuit of even higher profit margins, these capitalist giants operate in the full knowledge that their pitiful pay rates for the workers who actually produce their company wealth will be topped up by the likes of Working Tax Credits - state subsidies to low-paying capitalists, funded by workers' taxes.
Nor does it make the economy healthier. When a worker gains a modest pay rise, just about every penny extra is spent - on daily necessities, and in local shops, cafes, pubs, etc. This helps create or secure other workers' jobs.
In contrast, the bloated rich gamble on the stock markets to make even more money, or invest in useless luxuries like yachts, private jets, and works of art that are often salted away in bank vaults for 'safety', never to be seen nor appreciated by their owners, let alone wider society.
Their habits of hoarding - further illustrated by record low levels of industrial investment from profits - actually adds to job insecurity. The jobs holocaust in retail recently - with forecasts of 160,000 further job losses in 2019 - is in substantial part the result of low pay for millions, who therefore struggle to spend... a system of low pay designed to fund the profits and privileges of capitalist owners and their disgustingly over-paid chief executives and directors.
Demand Action for Legal Maximum Income
It's not sufficient to expose and condemn this stinking income inequality. We need action based on concrete alternatives.
It's not sufficient for the TUC to criticize chief executives for "taking out more than they put in", to quote Frances O'Grady. It's necessary for the trade union and socialist movement to tackle this head on with the demand for a legally-enforced Maximum Income, tied to a legally-enforced national minimum wage.
For years, the Scottish Socialist Party has advocated a maximum income based on ten times the minimum wage. Since its Annual Delegate Meeting last April, that's the policy of my own union, Usdaw, with its 430,000 members.
As I said at the Usdaw conference, in successfully proposing this policy of a Legal Maximum Income initially set at 10 times the national minimum wage:
"Of course, there will be screams of hell and damnation from on high. Let them scream blue murder as long as they want. When did that ever stop the trade union movement from fighting for what is right?
"I think this is an extremely moderate and modest demand. I could put the case for 4:1 or 5:1 but I am going to be moderate, let's start with 10:1 as a measure to cut the inequality...
"If we assume a 35-hour week, a policy I strongly and passionately advocate, a 10:1 differential on the policy of the union for a £10 minimum wage will be £100-an-hour. That's £3,500 a week. It is £182,000 a year. Who in hell could object to being limited to that as an income? Who could argue that it is a disincentive to do a job, however skilled it may be, if you only get £182,000? By the way, it doesn't even affect a full 1% of the population. The infamous 1% are those on roughly £150,000 or more. This is setting the ceiling on £182,000 a year.
"We cannot sit back and wait for social justice off the Tories. We cannot sit back and wait for a social conscience to erupt in the boardrooms of big business. We need to argue the case as a union, amongst our own members, inside the TUC, inside the Labour Party, (we are already convinced in the Scottish Socialist Party!), convince people of this policy, to then go forward and get it adopted and implemented."
[quoted from Usdaw verbatim Report of ADM 2018]
|HES workers left reliant on Salvation Army and food-banks|
Two Planets on Earth
Fat Cat Friday coincided with yet more inflation-busting train fare increases; 160 workers at Health Environmental Services in Shotts being forced to turn to Salvation Army charity and food banks for survival after being made redundant, but without any redundancy payments, and still owed their December wages; child poverty levels rocketing at their fastest rate in 30 years; and one in every 200 people being identified as either homeless or in totally inadequate housing.
Two planets here on Earth! If these contrasting fortunes of the capitalist exploiters and the working class don't make your blood boil in anger, I'd recommend medical attention.
We need to use this obscene start to the New Year to redouble our resolve in battling against poverty and inequality. To popularise the demand for a Legal Maximum Income initially set at 10 times the national minimum wage, as the inseparable companion to the campaign for an immediate £10-an-hour national minimum wage for all over 16, without exception.
As I said in the same speech at Usdaw conference last April:
"I do not claim that our proposition solves everything. Speaking as a socialist trade unionist, I believe democratic public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and the biggest businesses is part of the solution. I do not just want to see a limitation on the slice of the cake that the tops of industry get. I want us collectively to own the whole bloody bakery!
However, this proposition goes one hell of a way towards tackling the inequality. It is a radical departure from the morally repugnant and economically destructive inequality that is increasing at the minute."
Take up the fight for a minimum of £10-an-hour now, immediately, and a maximum income of £100-an-hour - in your unions, on the streets. Help make advances in 2019 towards equality and socialism in our lifetimes. Demand not only a fairer share of the cake, but collective ownership of the bakery!