Helen Martin: All our rewards need reassessed

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I AM beginning to feel sorry for bankers. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration. But you can’t blame a banker any more than you can blame a viciously-trained guard dog for biting an intruder. Neither know any better.

As politicians now wait for applause for pointing the pious finger, tightening up on failed and failing banks and those who lead them, threatening to jail them for reckless misconduct, to cancel their bonuses and pay-offs, to hold them personally accountable and to empower authorities and regulators to get more of a grip on them, they may face something of a deafening silence from the crowd.

Never was there a clearer case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Fred the Shred Goodwin and all the others were feted and knighted for their bold leadership or, if you prefer, risky deals. It brought them a champagne lifestyle, seats at top tables, in fact it is not going too far to say the government was in absolute thrall to the likes of Goodwin.

No wonder the bankers didn’t see that they were doing anything wrong. Like Pavlov’s dog, they responded to rewards.

And what stuck in all our “craws” was the size of those rewards. There really are few men or women of genius in the world, and even fewer who truly deserve high six or even seven figure annual remuneration.

The notion that we must pay huge salaries to get the best people is not proven until we know how the sums are arrived at in the first place.

Do candidates sneer down their noses at the first offer? Do they say at the outset through head-hunters or whatever, what package they 
will work for, no matter what the job is?

Or are their employers really such a push-over that they will start off by offering a ridiculous amount of money blithely assuming that will always attract the best candidate rather than the greediest?

How come, by contrast, the rest of us are employed on the basis of the best candidate for the lowest possible salary?

When it comes to public or quasi-public appointments we have a right to know how these decisions are made – how, for example, Lothian Buses Chief Executive Ian Craig got a 40 per cent bonus equating to a 26 per cent rise in pay in one year to £265,000 while drivers got two per cent. Maybe he would have been happy to take on the trams challenge as well without any rise at all. Or did he have to play hard ball or threaten to walk in order to negotiate such a massive hike to his pay? Perhaps he didn’t have to fight to get it at all and may even have been offered the extra £80,000 straight off.

Bankers are a start but the rot in our society goes much deeper than one industry. Everybody’s rewards should be re-assessed because for some, the Gravy Train’s still chuffing along even though we’ve run out of track.

The little people will suffer most

NEVER make an investment you can’t afford to lose. Perhaps that’s never more obvious than when it comes to football clubs, many of which seem to run on emotion, hope and loyalty rather than sound business plans.

And if it all ends in administration, it seems completely unfair that the little people, the ones who supplied the pies or the teas, or cleaned the toilets, or in good faith provided services and were dependant on being paid, are at the bottom of the creditors’ queue. In fact when the HMRC bill is left outstanding, we are all losers. Hearts will survive as Rangers has. Some of those owed money might never recover.

New level of bullying needs tougher stance

THERE has always been bullying at school. We cannot expect children to always be nice any more than we can expect them to always do as they are told. They are often cruel. But now we have anti-social networking, the bullying is a hundred times worse. Now it’s public.

At the tap of a key, a gang of four bullies can become a gang of 44. Insults are not hissed or whispered, they are published. Teachers “discussing” the topic with pupils, as they have done at Forrester High after 12-year-old Chloe Meredith was taunted for months, doesn’t amount to “taking it seriously”. How about threats of expulsion, police investigation, and social work referral for the guilty?

What does BBC want to hush?

AT a time when whistle-blowing is encouraged to root out bad management and cover-ups, why has the BBC paid out £28 million of our licence fees to impose gagging orders on 500 staff? And what, may we ask, do these staff know that the Beeb is so determined to hush up? According to the figures dating back to 2005, in the case of two individuals the pay-off was over half a million each!

There is a nasty whiff coming from Auntie. At least we can probably all guess how Savile got away with his activities for so long. What we’ll never know is how much people might have been paid for their silence.

Posties should dump the junk

HERE’S an idea for postmen, opposed to privatisation, who have balloted in support of industrial action to boycott delivery of competitors’ mail. Forget whose mail it is. Just refuse to deliver the junk. The public will love you.