Executive pay 'up 10 per cent despite crash'

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The pay of executives at the helm of Britain's top companies rose 10 per cent last year despite their organisations suffering huge losses on the stock market, it emerged today.

The full and part-time directors of the FTSE 100 companies took home more than £1bn between them last year, according to The Guardian's annual survey of boardroom pay.

The directors' salary increases were more than three times the 3.1 per cent average pay rise for ordinary workers in the private sector and more than double the rate of inflation last year.

Their bumper pay hikes came at a time when many of their companies were imposing pay freezes and redundancies on staff in a bid to cut costs.

The survey also revealed that the 10 most highly paid executives together earned £170m last year - up from £140m in 2007.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said: "The Guardian's analysis shows the breathtaking cynicism involved in a lot of executive pay deals, which are unrelated to either personal or corporate performance and involve people who are very well off helping themselves to larger salaries when private sector wages in many companies are being cut."

The increases in executives' basic pay helped compensate for falls in bonuses related to the performance of their companies.

Overall pay for directors of FTSE companies, including bonuses, fell by an average of 5 per cent, with the average chief executive of a bluechip company now earning a basic salary of £791,000.

But taking into account bonus payments, share awards and the value of perks ranging from cars and drivers to school fees and dental work, the average pay package rises dramatically, the newspaper said.

Nearly a quarter of FTSE chief executives received total 2008 pay packages worth more than £5m, and 22 directors now have basic salaries of more than £1m.

The highest paid boss last year was Bart Becht, chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser, who received £36.8m in pay, bonuses, perks and share incentive schemes.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: "The recession has done nothing to stop the gap between top directors and the rest of their staff getting wider every year.

"It is even more offensive when the Institute of Directors has called for spending cuts that would hit pensioners, the poor and low-paid public sector staff.

"We've already had the 1980s-style recession, it looks depressingly like we are going back to 1980s greed-is-good politics too."

The executive pay survey was released three days after a separate report which said the pensions of top company directors have increased by more than 23 per cent since last year to almost £250,000 a year.

Analysis of pension arrangements for 373 directors from 103 companies by the TUC found that leading executives have amassed pension pots worth an average of £3.4 million, providing an annual pension of £247,785 a year each.

The highest paid directors in each company had pensions worth £333,664 a year, while a small number of bosses would receive more than £1 million a year, said the union organisation.