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26 Feb 2010

RBS issues bonuses again

The headlines are damning in themselves - Bank makes over £5bn loss and issues over £1bn in bonuses, but to be fair the reality is not as simple as that. The trading arm of the bank made a significant profit, keeping the overall loss down to a mere £5bn... and the bonuses were given out only in this section. However, I can't help feeling that an entity that is 84% owned by the UK government is morally obliged to lead the way in moderate bonuses instead of forking out a million to each of 100 single employees.
In fact the CEO of the bank had the good grace to decline his own bonus and that in itself tells us something. He has grasped the concept that this type of reward is obscene in the view of normal people, so why is it that this culture is so well established that we cannot stop it?
My argument is that if performance-related pay is unavoidable - who is it that pays out when their arm of the business makes a loss?
The only answer is that the people who are taking these bonuses are:
  1. under the impression that they are irreplaceable
  2. will jump-ship if they are not given obscene amounts of money
  3. are only willing to work for obscene amounts of money - ie. do not believe in the principle of a fair days pay for a fair days work, and are not willing to share profits with any other part of the organisation for whom they work.
  4. are under the impression that they are personally responsible for every success of the company, but not responsible for any losses.
This is normal in the 'city' granted, but it is more difficult to swallow when the facts of the matter are put somewhat differently. These bonus fat-cats were no doubt the first to whine for Government intervention to save their precious firms, but the last to want to lend a hand now they have been rescued from the horror of a life of working for a normal wage. They are straight back on the horse demanding satisfaction in the form of un-earned sacks of cash.
I am largely against regulation, but I do think there has to be some balance in the way that vast amount of cash is handed out to a very small selection of individuals. On the other hand I am all for responsibility, if losses are made I want to see some claw-backs from the hay that was made whilst the sun shone... I believe,the only way that these types of payments can be made acceptable, is if:
  • more of the money is made available to even the lowest of the low within the organisation, it should not be reserved for the 'elite' because without the 'grinders', the top dogs wouldn't get anywhere.
  • where a bonus equal to more than the lowest salary is 'due', it should be paid over five years, if in subsequent years, losses are made, the remaining unpaid bonus is offset against losses.
Only with these type of measures can bonuses be considered acceptable by the general public.

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