Large FTSE 100 companies claiming millions of pounds of government support for furloughed workers paid their chief executives an average of £3.6m last year.
According to the High Pay Centre, the 18 companies who have so far publicly revealed that they will use the scheme have spent a combined £321m on pay for their chief executives over the last five years.
The thinktank’s analyst suggests that £42bn profits made in the last five years by the 18 companies could have covered the expected cost to the government of the scheme.
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This Is Money says there are “mounting calls” for “super-rich fat cat executives” to “play a bigger part in shouldering the financial burden stemming from the crisis, which will end up hitting taxpayers hard in the pocket”.
The Guardian says that “blue-chip companies” that planned to use the scheme included Primark owner Associated British Foods, easyJet, and British Airways owner IAG, as well as retailers Next and JD Sports.
Luke Hildyard, the High Pay Centre’s director, said the coronavirus job retention scheme is a “vital progressive measure to protect people’s jobs and incomes at this critical time”, but added that “it’s important to understand that it is a subsidy for businesses, as well as for workers”.
He said: “The companies that are effectively taking public money to sustain themselves through the shutdown will be under particular pressure to achieve a fairer balance between rewards for executives, investors and their wider workforce in future. But hopefully the sense of solidarity forged in the crisis will raise ambitions for the social and environmental contribution of all businesses.”
Last month, chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled an “unprecedented” £330bn loan scheme to support businesses, alongside a raft of “direct support” measures including tax cuts, millions in grants and three-month “mortgage holidays”.
Addressing the media, Sunak said the UK has “never in peacetime faced an emergency like this”, adding that he would abandon “orthodoxy” and “ideology” in response.
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