Paul Hargreaves: Inequality
I mentioned last week that the key workers in our society, the health workers, the care workers, the van drivers and the supermarket workers earning less in a year than the owner of Amazon earns in one minute. Let’s bring that thought a little closer to home this week and look at the pay gap within the supermarkets within the UK. Mike Coupe, CEO of Sainsbury’s, was recently paid a £7M bonus and CEO of Tesco, Dave Lewis, earned a £6.4M salary last year. With the entry level pay at these two companies being £9.30 per hour and £9 per hour respectively, this means that the CEOs of two British companies earn in a day what their lowest paid workers earn over a whole year.
How would you feel working for a company where the boss earns 365 times more than you do? Now, most reasonable people would expect a CEO of a large company to earn more than they do as a van driver or a shelf-stacker, but 365 times more? Really? Can anyone justify that level of pay differential within the same company? I’m reading a book at present called ‘The Spirit Level’ by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. First published in 2009, this is an astonishing book as it proves scientifically that the ills of society are not primarily caused by poverty, but by inequality. The more unequal a country or a US State (as both types of data are revealed) the more problems that society has across many areas: mental health, physical health, obesity, educational performance, teenage births, violence and imprisonment levels.
Not just sweat shops working on behalf of Boohoo.com in Leicester are creating more inequality, but large, so-called respectable businesses in the UK too. Even within our own food and drink industry, which certainly isn’t the worst. We support these businesses generating more inequality by our daily consumption. Are we happy to let his carry on? Or are we going to do something about it? For years the mantra of capitalism has been, ‘Let the market decide’. That hasn’t got us too far over the past 50 years, has it? With more inequality every year and a planet that is degrading before our eyes. I believe it is time for governments to legislate to incentivise with tax breaks for those companies that are reducing inequality and improving the planet, and against those who are perpetuating injustice for the planet and people.
The 250+ B Corporations in the UK have to report in their assessments on their top/bottom pay gap, and the highest score is for a pay differential of less than 5x. I am pleased to say that Cotswold Fayre has always been well within that running around 3.5. With fair pay, not only is there a happier bunch of people working at a company with less resentment, but generally a more productive team too.