Union chief calls on Edinburgh Trams boss to return £49k bonus in ‘show of solidarity’ with workforce furloughed during Covid pandemic

A union chief is calling on the managing director of Edinburgh Trams to return his £49,000 bonus to show “solidarity” with the workforce who have been furloughed during the pandemic.

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 7:00 am

Trams boss Lea Harrison took home a salary of £132,025 and received a bonus of £48,895 for the period of January to December 2019. As the Edinburgh Evening news reported last week, this was the highest bonus paid to a local authority employee in the UK during 2019/20.

The details emerged in a report produced by the Taxpayers’ Alliance, a right-wing think tank that lobbies for lower tax, which revealed Edinburgh City Council has more employees earning above £100,000 than any other local authority in Scotland.

An Edinburgh Trams spokesperson said the figures were taken from their January-December 2019 annual accounts and have “no bearing” on their performance during Covid-19, and that the impact of the pandemic will be reflected in the executive team’s remuneration packages for 2020, which are not yet available.

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Trams boss Lea Harrison took home a salary of £132,025 and received a bonus of £48,895 for the period of January to December 2019

But Unite the union, which represents about 185 Edinburgh Trams workers, is asking Mr Harrison to return his bonus because dozens of workers have had to suffer reductions in take home pay under the UK government’s job retention scheme.

It is understood that a planned pay increase for tram workers in April last year, agreed two months prior, was also deferred to November 2020 as the Covid pandemic took its toll on passenger numbers and finances.

Mr Lyn Turner, Unite industrial officer, said: “The fact that the boss of Edinburgh Trams has received a bonus equivalent to nearly 40 percent of his salary should make Lea Harrison squirm in his managing director’s chair.

“He should do the right thing and show some solidarity with the workforce by handing this bonus back but I doubt he has any sense of shame.”

Mr Turner also says he “remains unconvinced” that Mr Harrison was paid his bonus at the end of 2019.

He claims the Edinburgh Trams board is “out of touch with reality” and questions exactly what Mr Harrison’s bonus was for. This was put to Edinburgh Trams but specific reasons for the bonus were not provided.

Mr Turner also wants to see reform with arm’s-length external organisations such as Edinburgh Trams, so that councils can have more influence on decisions made by their boards on issues such as pay awards.

An Edinburgh Trams spokesperson said: “The recently published figures were taken from our January-December 2019 annual accounts and therefore have no bearing on our performance during Covid-19.

“Our board is acutely aware of the impact the pandemic has had on the organisation and this will be reflected in the executive team’s remuneration packages which will be detailed in our 2020 annual accounts.”

An Edinburgh City Council spokesperson said: “Pay awards are a matter for the board of Edinburgh Trams.

“However, as a council we have publicly discussed and strongly urge restraint amongst the arm’s length transport companies with regard to bonuses, and continue to stress this to their boards.”

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