ITV boss Adam Crozier's £8.4m pay package has come under fire from a powerful American union which accused the British TV giant of a "culture of greed" while failing to give writers and producers basic benefits.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA), which has previously shut down Hollywood with strike action, claims ITV has refused to negotiate for nearly four years and the company's behaviour in the US contrasts unfavourably with other British firms.
The row threatens to escalate as local politicians on New York City Council are set to hold a hearing in June into conditions in the city's "non-fiction" reality TV industry and ITV, in particular.
The WGA is not planning a strike but upped the pressure by pointing out the US asset manager BlackRock, ITV's third-biggest shareholder with a 5 per cent stake, manages a substantial amount of the assets of the pension benefit plans for WGA members. The union said it was "troubled" by BlackRock's involvement in a company that "refuses to provide benefits to guild-represented employees".
BlackRock said: "We don't comment on individual stocks and securities."
Almost 28 per cent of shareholders in ITV are based in America, according to Bloomberg. The WGA has around 100 members working on shows such as Rocky Mountain Bounty and The Killer Speaks for ITV Studios.
"The company refuses to provide even the most-basic benefits," the WGA said. "While ITV's profits have surged around the world, the company has spent four years denying health benefits, paid time off, and other basic workplace protections to its US-based writer-producers."
The union said Lion TV and Optomen, both owned by Britain's All3Media, and America's Sharp Entertainment, have agreed to pay benefits to WGA members.
ITV has expanded in America, where it is the top independent producer of scripted non-fiction shows.
Gerry Morrissey, the head of British broadcasting union Bectu, said: "In recent years, things have been reasonably good with ITV in the UK, especially under Adam Crozier's leadership. I would like to see ITV enter negotiations with the Writers' Guild."
ITV said: "ITV Studios America is in ongoing talks with the WGA."