COSATU condemns top CEOs' pay hikes

Union says median pay increased by 23.3% to R4,8m

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted with anger the report that in 2010 the median pay of executive directors of the top 40 JSE-listed companies increased by 23.3%, to R4.8 million.

Short-term ‘incentives' to executive directors, which include all cash-based payments paid to an individual based on company and individual performance, rose even faster in these top 40 companies, by 57.5%, to R3.8-million.

Many of these executives will no doubt be joining the chorus condemning the ‘excessive' and ‘unaffordable' 13% wage increases being demanded by NUMSA, CEPPWAWU and others. They never stop to consider that it is the labour of these workers that creates the wealth from which their R4.8 million salaries and R3.8 million bonuses comes from!

South Africa had already achieved the distinction of being the most unequal society in the world. These latest increases at the highest levels have widened the gap still further. They make the unions' demands seem even more modest and reasonable.

This report, by PwC Southern Africa, illustrates why COSATU has relaunched its living wage campaign and why we are fully behind the workers currently on strike.

The Naledi Research Paper on the Living Wage, presented to the COSATU Central Committee in June, spells out the reality. The top 10% of earners receive around 94 times more than the bottom 10%. The poorest 10% share R1.1 billion between them while the richest 10% share R381 billion, 51% of the total.

The inequality has a marked racial dimension. Whereas the African population accounts for 79.4% of the population and 76.8% of households, it only accounts for 41.2% of household income from work and social grants. In contrast the white population account for only 9.2% of the population and 12.8% of households yet receives 45.3% of household income, five times their proportion of the population.

Inequality is further aggravated by the fact that the poorest have to spend a much higher percentage of their incomes on basic essentials like food and clothing.

COSATU endorses the view of NUMSA that "wage negotiations should not be viewed in isolation, but treated as one of the tools to be used to address the triple crisis (‘of poverty, unemployment and inequality') that our country faces. South Africa is the most unequal country in the world in terms of income, and the most concrete way to address this inequality is to close the wage gap. Wage negotiations are the most powerful tool we have in acting decisively on this question."

The federation will not hesitate to mobilise its members in support of the workers in NUMSA and CEPPWAWU, and any others who have to fight for a reasonable wage increase. We are determined to raise the low level of wages and in particular to end the super-exploitation of workers by labour brokers and other forms of atypical employment.

Statement issued by Patrick Craven, COSATU national spokesperson, July 11 2011

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