Edinburgh Trams claim boss top-up payment is 'not a bonus'

Edinburgh Trams has said that managing director Lea Harrison has not been paid a bonus – insisting that the controversial £16,000 top-up payment he received is instead an ‘incentivisation payment’.

Politicians and members of the travelling public have condemned the £25,000 pay rise and extra £16,000 ‘bonus’ that Mr Harrison received for the year ending in April. Union leaders have said the payments are “appalling” at a time when it says some of its members are having to rely on food banks to get by due to low pay from Edinburth Trams.

The £16,000 payment is described as a bonus in the latest unaudited annual accounts of the city council which ultimately oversees the city’s tram company. The report shows Mr Harrison was handed a 16 per cent increase on his £150,000 salary plus the £16,000 on top.

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The trams company’s insistence that the £16,000 was not a bonus has been met with incredulity amid growing calls for it to explain on what basis such payments are being made.

Lea Harrison received pay rise plus bonus

Council leader Cammy Day branded Mr Harrison’s bonus as 'disappointing' and said bonuses should not be paid to senior executives under any circumstances. Mr Day said hemade this ‘abundantly clear’ at an emergency meeting he called with the directors on Wednesday.

Unite has called for answers on bonus payments at a time when industrial action is on the table over tram workers pay, after workers voted down two offers as ‘derisory’ .

But an Edinburgh Trams spokesperson declined to set out the criteria for the so-called ‘incentive’ payment paid to Mr Harrison and stressed that any changes to remuneration are agreed by its board of directors, adding: “We would like to point out that Mr Harrison does not receive a ‘bonus’ as you suggest, and the figure you refer to relates to an incentivisation payment which is part of the managing director’s agreed renumeration package.”

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It comes after the Evening News also revealed that the managing director of Lothian Buses Nigel Serafini received a pay rise, along with a £26,000 bonus on top as well as ‘other benefits’ sparking fury and claims of ‘cosy’ pay deals at Transport for Edinburgh.

Harrison was named last year as the recipient of Britain's biggest public sector bonus payment. He received a bonus of £48,895 in the financial year 2019/20 after overseeing a dramatic increase in paying passengers before the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Lyn Turner, Regional Officer for Unite, said: “They can spin it any way they like. If it looks like a bonus and is listed on accounts as a bonus, you can be sure it’s a bonus. To defend it as anything else is preposterous. They are scraping the barrel here. As far as I’m concerned you can’t deny that a top up is a bonus. That’s just smoke and mirrors. What’s it for?

“Tram drivers, ticket sales assistants and those working hard every day don’t get these extra incentives.”

Sarah Boyack MSP said: “Key workers have kept the entire country up and running during the pandemic. Now, during a cost of living crisis, they see those at the very top getting the bonuses and pay rises they should have been getting instead.

“We need transparency, accountability and a rethink of these deals.”

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