Trade unionists will mount a global campaign to target bosses' "platinum parachutes for failure", the Trades Union Congress said yesterday.
As the TUC urged HSBC's investors to vote against the firm's executive remuneration report at this Friday's annual general meeting, it pledged to launch similar campaigns against other companies.
And it plans to set up links with trade unionists in the United States and Europe to assert influence over the one-third of companies in Britain owned by American investors.
On Friday, the TUC hopes that its 1,000-strong network of trade union pension fund trustees will vote against rewards for failure at HSBC. Trade unionists are already encouraged by the recent vote to defeat a reputed £22m pay and rewards package for GlaxoSmithKline's chief executive, Jean-Pierre Garnier.
They also want the records of such votes to be made public, to expose the fund managers who either abstain or vote for these pay deals.
The TUC's general secretary-elect, Brendan Barber, said: "It may seem like the tide has turned against rewarding failure in Britain's boardrooms. But the large number of abstentions in last week's GlaxoSmithKline pay vote show that some big investors are still reluctant to take a firm line on greed.
"HSBC investors should keep up the pressure and vote against the executive pay deal. This is our money. Our pension funds and insurance policies should be invested in a way that supports good businesses, not platinum parachutes for failing directors."
The TUC contacted by email 1,000 trade union pension fund trustees, who cover funds worth more than £260bn, to make clear their support for a vote against the remuneration report and the termination provisions - worth about $30m (£18.3m) - for the executive director that it contained.
The move to vote against is supported by Unifi, the union representing HSBC staff.
This year has already seen an upsurge in shareholder activism and increased trade union activity surrounding executive pay.
Unions have so far called for votes against excessive executive pay deals at Corus, Shell, Reuters and GlaxoSmithKline. The TUC plans other campaigns later this year and is to extend its activities in the US and Europe.
"This issue seems to be the aspect of pay that is causing the most anger both here and abroad," a TUC spokesman said. "I think it is a question that now we have the removal of privacy and secrecy, people are beginning to realise how ridiculous these severance deals are."
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