Pounds Sterling

Image by 917press via Flickr

So Stephen Hester, chief executive of RBS will not receive his £1m pound bonus. Really? I’m gobsmacked.  How on earth will he survive? After all, his salary is only about £1m a year…

And what does Mr. Hester do to earn so little? I mean, does he get up at five every morning, buy a train ticket that costs a fortune, travel across a dirty and crowded city to his place of work, where he cleans out lavatories or fries chips, or washes up, or wipes bottoms or empties bins, or washes windows, or deals with thugs, or delivers babies, or makes sure old people with dementia are loved and cared for properly…?

And will he possibly be made redundant and then have to get himself to the job centre and stand in a line for hours and fill in forms and be told he’s not eligible for this benefit or that benefit and go home to tell his wife that he doesn’t know how they will be able to eat that week, and then will he try for months on end to get another job and know that at any minute his house might be repossessed because he cannot pay the mortgage; a mortgage granted by an irresponsible bank like the one Mr. Hester runs? Well, I guess that’s worth a million pound bonus….? I would really like to see a minute by minute time-table of Mr. Hestor’s working day. I want to know exactly what he does to get such a salary and then an enormous bonus. I want to see behind the green curtain and find out what the wizard’s job is all about.

So now we have two cultures developing. We have people in dire straights who are labeled scroungers and have their benefits capped at £26K and chief executives who are deemed to be super-humans, worth millions of pounds. Why are we obliged to have this strange value system? We have a Prime Minister who talks about ‘hard-working families,’ the Big Society, freedom for everyone, but somehow manages to promote an economic system that encourages such enormous divisions in society. Why?

Of course there are bad apples in every sector. Yes, benefit fraud does exist and should be challenged and punished according to our laws. But what about the bad apples in that other sector? Why has it taken public outrage to persuade Mr. Hester to say no to his bonus? Is there no internal burglar alarm? There are proposals being put forward that workers should have places on the boards of all large companies, because it appears that board members happily subscribe to a ridiculous system that enables them to award huge bonuses, as a matter of course. In theory, it might work. But how vocal would those workers be? Would they be listened to? Would they have any real influence?

Inequality is something we should always strive to defeat. It is wrong that we have such enormous differences in how people are rewarded for their work. It makes a nonsense of democracy. It is, to my mind, obscene that one man can claim so high a salary and then receive an enormous bonus on top, when another cannot keep a roof over his family’s head or buy food and that IS WHAT IS HAPPENING IN 21st century Britain. How shameful.

The idea of a living wage for all has been suggested. This would mean a wage that you can live on. A wage that will enable you to have a dignified and civilised lifestyle. This living wage would apply to everyone, including people like Mr. Hester. It that just a Utopian dream? Probably. But something has to change. It is not envy that makes people angry about such bonuses, it is the inequality of it all and I suspect, the hypocrisy.