‘Workers are children, and if you don’t like high pay, move to Cuba’

Alex Hern covers the extraordinary comments of Dr Heather McGregor, who thinks workers are basically children, and that if you don't live in Cuba, you shouldn't have a say in how your company is run.

Dr Heather McGregor, the director of headhunting firm Taylor Bennett, appeared on Radio Four’s Today programme today to defend high executive pay in the most jaw-dropping way possible.

McGregor started the interview by claiming we already have worker representation on pay committees, because some workers have pensions, and some pensions have worker representation, and some pensions with worker representation own large enough shares in companies to make it on to the renumeration committee, so there needn’t be any change.

She went on from there to compare workers to children, saying to John Humphrys:

“John, you have young children, you would not give your children a say in how much money you allocate yourself every year for clothes or for haircuts.”

Finally, she closed her case by pointing out that workers are allowed a say on pay in workers co-operatives, and they have workers co-operatives in Cuba, so if you think executive pay is too high, you should move to Cuba.

Of course, if one wanted to debunk her, one could point out that private companies have worker representation on pay committees in Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, and Sweden (in the EU alone), or that we actually have workers co-operatives in the UK as well.

But really, she does the job herself.

Listen to the excerpt:

Don”t like high executive pay? "Move to Cuba" (mp3)

And read a transcript:

John Humphrys: Are you seriously saying that it doesn’t matter how much the boss, of a publicly quoted company, and we’re not talking about entrepreneurs, who make billions…

Dr Heather McGregor: It matters, but it matters to their shareholders. And their shareholders –

JH: Not to the workers? Not to the workers at all, you don’t think that somebody earning £20 grand a year looks at a boss earning £20 million a year and thinks “that’s not right…”

HM: I think that the people who should set the pay, for the people at the top of companies, public companies, are the people that own those companies.

JH: But you know as well as I do that there’s a nice little merry-go-round, they’re all members of the same kinda clubs –

HM: That’s absolutely not, and –

JH: Renumeration committees don’t have members on them who are members of other committees?

HM: That’s not true, and furthermore we do already have worker representation.

JH: Really? You know it’s true, I’ve met them.

HM: We have workers, we have worker representation on pension funds already, all over the country on big pension funds, and those people do have a say. I mean at the moment –

JH: So they have a say on the renumeration –

Deborah Hargreaves (chair of the High Pay Commission): Well that works very well, so why shouldn’t we do it for pay?

HM: No, that is the same thing because they are representing their pension funds who are the owners of these shares, so we already have worker representation. John, you have young children, you would not give your children a say in how much money you allocate yourself every year for clothes or for haircuts.

JH: I’m not sure that’s relevant really…

HM: Yes it is relevant! It absolutely is relevant. We do not operate workers co-operatives. If they all want to work in a workers co-operative everybody can move to Cuba. These companies are owned by their shareholders, and it is the shareholders who should have the say on executive pay and not the workers.

See also:

Unless pay gaps are reduced, we’ll end up with Victorian levels of inequalityShamik Das, November 22nd 2011

As top pay soars, the 99% are left behindWill Straw, October 28th 2011

High pay damages our economyDuncan Exley, October 28th 2011

Lifting the lid on Low Pay BritainLee Savage, October 4th 2011

Cable gets it on pay and inequality – unlike the greedy IoDLarissa Hansford, September 19th 2011

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