Right of Reply: The general secretary of Unison responds to yesterday's leading article on government attitudes to `fat cats'

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The Independent Culture
IF TAXATION, as a means of redistribution, were fair, then I would agree with your editorial ("Mr Byers is right not to skin the fat cats") that "the Government's role should be limited to taxing fairly rewards generated by the market".

But it's not. And it's more than an issue of taxation. It's about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It's about boardroom excesses, huge pay hikes and share options - not just immediately post- privatisation, but year on year - while the staff have pay cuts or meagre rises, or lose jobs altogether.

Yesterday we heard that top directors had given themselves another 26 per cent. Did the workers in the huge supermarket chain get 26 per cent? Did the growers and pickers around the world that provide our food get 26 per cent? Er... no.

And Centrica, which found pounds 1.1bn to buy the AA, dealt a body blow to 1,450 people - mainly women earning less than pounds 12,000 a year, by making them redundant. And the boss's pay? pounds 543,000 a year.

In five minutes a director of Rentokil earns pounds 49.25; a PowerGen director will get pounds 83 for 25 minutes; a director at United Utilities will pocket pounds 107 after 35 minutes; after 55 minutes a director of Westminster Health Nursing Homes gets pounds 103. After 60 minutes many millions of people will earn pounds 3.60, Centrica shop staff will earn pounds 6, while their boss will earn pounds 158.01. And, worse, many of the fat cats begrudge the few crumbs the mice get.

Only the Government can help sort out this mess. It was elected to be different from the last lot. It promised to bring back fairness not favours. Business people should be made to understand that the "fairness not favours" applies to them. What price a fairer new society in the new millennium?

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