Union leaders call for high pay commission

The TUC was today urged to set up a “high pay commission” to investigate pay levels across the whole economy and shadow the public sector pay review commissioned by the Government earlier this summer.

In June, Prime Minister David Cameron asked economist Will Hutton to examine ways to prevent disparities of pay that lead to the top paid employees in the public sector earning 20 times or more as much as the lowest paid.

Hutton’s review will include staff covered by the senior salaries review body, non-departmental bodies and managers in local government and the NHS, but his remit does not include the BBC or the Royal Mail.

At the TUC Conference today, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) called on the union body to set up a high pay commission to focus on pay across all sectors, particularly the difference between the highest and lowest pay within top FTSE 100 companies.

Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said: “Will Hutton’s review is welcome but desperately limited. It omits publicly owned companies like Royal Mail as well as the whole of the private sector where the greatest excesses and inequalities exist. Over the last 10 years the average remuneration of a FTSE 100 CEO increased by 295%, compared to a rise of just 44% for employees.

“In Royal Mail, for example, the ex-chief executive Adam Crozier was paid £2.48 million in wages, pension and bonuses last year while delivery staff got £16,238. It would take a postman or postwoman 150 years to earn what Crozier received in one.”

Hayes said that executive pay was “out of control” in the UK. “The blatant double standards in pay for those at the top of companies compared to those at the bottom is outrageous and leads to dissatisfaction and a divided society of haves and have-nots,” he added.

Meanwhile, union leaders have played down new figures from the Office for National Statistics that showed full-time public sector staff earned an average of £74 a week more than those in the private sector.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of public services union Unison, said it was “a red herring” to compare pay in the public and private sectors in this way.

“There are millions more people employed in the private sector, across a much wider spread of earnings, which means simply taking an average figure and comparing it tells us nothing at all,” he said. “A meaningless figure is further distorted by the inclusion of people working in the nationalised banks, such as Northern Rock, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, in the public sector earnings statistics.”

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