Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Hester waiver 'won't fix broken system'

From the Morning Star

John Millington

Financial-sector unions and banking experts welcomed today RBS chief executive Stephen Hester's decision to waive his bonus - but pointed out that "systematic theft" was still rife in the banking system.

Mr Hester finally bowed to intense political and public pressure to forfeit his bonus of almost £1 million on Sunday night.

The bank - which is 83 per cent owned by the public - has confirmed that the 3.6-million share package worth £963,000 would not be paid to the millionaire banker.

Unite union national officer David Fleming said Mr Hester's move was "better late than never" but added: "There's a long way for RBS to go in proving its credentials as a responsible organisation to its customers and also to its thousands of staff."

Banking experts pointed out that waiving the bonus would not deal with the structural inequalities in the banking system.

Left Economics Advisory Panel co-ordinator Andrew Fisher said the move would "still leave him on a basic salary 5,000 per cent higher than the average civil servant.

"Last year Hester took home a total package worth £7.7m and it's good that Labour acted to prevent a repeat of this robbery again this year."

University of Wolverhampton professor Roger Seifert said: "The government wants the issue to go away and therefore creates a diversion about one man and his bonus, but we need to focus on the accountability of state-owned enterprises, on the real take-home pay of most workers."

And despite Prime Minister David Cameron's claim to be tough on bankers a government spokeswoman confirmed that Downing Street would not block future RBS bonuses.

"We are not going to micro-manage bonuses," she told the BBC. "They are doing a good job and making good progress."

But Labour leader Ed Miliband, who had planned to force a Commons vote calling for Mr Hester to be stripped of his bonus, said the debate about "executive pay and responsible capitalism is only beginning."

David Hillman of the Robin Hood Tax campaign said: "We cannot rely on the consciences of bankers to relinquish their excessive pay," pointing out that RBS was "just the tip of the iceberg."

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