As inflation hurts most in the UK, top bosses enjoy ‘bumper’ pay rises

The median FTSE 100 chief executive officer was paid 118 times the median full-time worker, study shows.

London stock exchange
The executives of top companies on the London Stock Exchange keep doing better financially as their workers struggle [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

The bosses of Britain’s most prominent companies took home average pay increases of about 4 million pounds ($5m) in 2022 during a cost-of-living crisis that continues to see most people grapple with how to pay for the rising prices of basic items, such as food and energy, on their salaries.

According to the High Pay Centre think tank, the median chief executive officer of Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) 100 companies  was paid 118 times the median full-time worker in the United Kingdom, up from a 108-time difference in 2021.

FTSE 350 companies spent 1.3 billion pounds ($1.7bn) to pay 570 executives, the centre said.

Workers unions denounced the findings, saying the UK had become “a land of grotesque extremes”.

Trade Union Congress General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “While millions of families have seen their budgets shredded by the cost-of-living crisis, city directors have enjoyed bumper pay rises.”

Luke Hildyard, director of the High Pay Centre, said: “At a time when so many households are struggling with living costs, an economic model that priorities a half-a-million-pound [$637,000] pay rise for executives who are already multimillionaires is surely going wrong somewhere.

“We need to give workers more voice on company boards, strengthen trade union rights and enable low- and middle-income earners to get a fairer share in relation to those at the top.”

Striking teachers show posters during a protest march in London, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. Thousands of schools in the U.K. are closing some or all of their classrooms, train services will be paralyzed and delays are expected at airports Wednesday in what's shaping up to be the biggest day of industrial action Britain has seen in more than a decade, as unions step up pressure on the government to demand better pay amid a cost-of-living crisis.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Striking teachers march during a protest in London [File: Alastair Grant/AP Photo]

The study found that Pascal Soriot, chief of the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, was the highest paid employee of the company, earning 16.6 million pounds ($21.5m).

Charles Woodburn, head of the British defence company BAE Systems, who received 10.7 million pounds ($13.6m), was the second highest earner.

The report added that the average pay for a FTSE 100 CEO rose from 3.4 million pounds ($4.3m) in 2021 to 3.9 million pounds ($5m) in 2022.

From April to June, official figures showed that workers saw average pay rises of 7.8 percent compared with a year earlier. But taking into account inflation, the rises were 0.6 percent.

Over the past year, multiple British public sectors from junior doctors and teachers to rail staff and bus drivers have been striking as their wages remain the same despite the economic crisis.

Although UK inflation levels are hovering at 6.8 percent, down from 7.8 percent in June, the country recently recorded the highest price increases among the Group of Seven, the seven countries that are among the world’s wealthiest and longest industrial powers.

The Bank of England has increased its key interest rate more than a dozen times in succession to try to lower inflation.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies