Recently issued figures show that while ordinary citizens continue to be forced to tighten the belt those at the top of the income scale are doing very nicely.
In France, the company bosses had a fine 2013:
- Carrefour’s George Plassat got a whopping 40% rise to 3.7 million in his pay cheque.
- Airbus’ Thomas Enders took home a colossal 37% pay increase to 2.9 million euros
- Jean Laurent Bonnafe of BNP Paribas secured a 20% rise to 3.4 million
- Federic Oudea of Societe Generale minted it with a 8.5% increase to 2.7 million.
- Henri de Castries of Axa and Christophe de Margerie of Total pocketed 3.5 million euros each, with rises of 8.7% and 7.6% respectively.
Some French fat cats, it has to be said, are getting less cream.
Poor old Maurice Levy of Publicis, for example, saw his pay packet lighten by 6.25% to just 4.5 million euros. But that still leaves him in the number one spot.
In fact half the CEOs of top listed firms in the CAC 40 stock market index saw their pay packages fall in 2013, but overall they still lapped up a sickening 90 million euros between them (down from 100 million euros in 2010.)
Consider that the average wage in France is 25,500 euros, according to the OECD, and pay grew in real terms by just 2.7% since 2007, you can see how your French man in the street could be a bit outraged.
France, to its credit, has introduced a wealth tax, levied on companies that pay salaries of more than 1 million euros (837 thousand pounds) a year, although the country’s constitutional court has scaled back the original proposals considerably. And Socialist Economy Minister Arnaud Montbourg, upon hearing the latest figures, has at least recognised the problem, calling in the big bosses to explain their gluttony. But they will no doubt have the standard answer for it – its the ‘going rate’, one set by themselves directly and/or big shareholders, that is other members of the filthy rich club.
The idea of the going rate doesn’t count for your ordinary Pierre. He can simply look forward to more tightening of the belt as the Socialist government and its new PM Manuel Valls proceeds with austerity measures that will freeze the pay of most public sector workers and a number of welfare benefits, all in aid of a 40 billion euros cut to employer’s tax bills.
Over in Spain, recently issued figures show bosses are holding up exceptionally during this austerity crisis, led by:
- Ignacio Sanchez Galan of Iberdrola on 7.4 million euros
- Pablo Isla of Inditex on 6.35 million euros
- Cesar Alierta of Telefonica on 6.25 million euros
- Rafael del Pino of Ferrovial on 5.34 million euros
- Franciso Gonzalez of BBVA on 5.17 million euros
With PM Mariano Rajoy’s noxious policy mix of austerity-fuelled record unemployment and labour market reforms creating a new underclass of low-wage workers on short-term contracts its no surprise then that the IMF concluded that wage inequality rose faster in Spain than in any other EU country from 2007 to 2012.
And then there’s Italy, which shares with Spain the top EU spot for outrageous feasting by fat cats.
While unemployment is at a record, wages have fallen in real terms by 3.6%, you find
- Franco Bernabè, formerly of Telecom Italia, grabbed 8.2 million euros last year
- Enrico Cucchiani, CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo until September 2013, lapping up 6.1 million euros
- CEO of Fiat and chairman of CNH Industrial Sergio Marchionne comes in third with 5.9 million euros
- Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo with 5.5 million.
What does PM Matteo Renzi have to say, less do, about it? Nothing. He subsidises low pay with tax cuts for the lower paid and clamps down on public sector chiefs whose salaries may be scandously high but pale into significance compared to private sector counterparts.
In conclusion, while austerity remains the daily diet of many millions of Europeans, there’s no end in sight of the bingeing among the Continent’s super-rich.