Tuesday 14 July 2015

Caledonia update

I've had a response from the FRC, which has been in touch with the company. Apparently the company "confirms" that it has not made any donations since 2010. However, as of today the two donations are still on the Electoral Commission website and attributed to Caledonia, so I've been in touch with the Commission, who in turn say they are talking to the Conservative Party.

Curiouser and curiouser...

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Long-termism in executive pay = more pay overall

The news that some companies are sounding out investors about steep increases in base salary in response to longer deferral periods should come as a shock to no-one. Here's The Grauniad from yesterday:
Some of the UK’s biggest companies are sounding out shareholders about pay rises for their bosses in a move that risks reigniting the controversy over excessive executive pay.
The potential increases to salaries would further inflate overall boardroom remuneration as annual bonuses and long-term incentive plans are all hinged on basic pay.
The increases appear to be driven by changes in the way company directors receive their bonuses. Shareholders have insisted bonuses be paid out over longer periods.
The trait of hyperbolic discounting - discounting rewards that are in the future, and discount them more the further away they are - is well-known. So when corporate governance 'reformers' demanded that execs have to wait longer for their loot it was pretty obvious that the knock-on effect would be a demand in response for more reward overall.

Another example showing why performance-related pay for executives is a fundamentally crap idea.

Monday 6 July 2015

The Walmart of the skies

Last week Michael O'Leary lost an important battle when a Danish labour ruled, if I understand it rightly, that workers at Copenhagen airport can take secondary action against Ryanair.

This is in response to the notoriously anti-union company's latest wheeze to avoid as many workplace protections as possible. Ryanair wants its Copenhagen-based staff to be subject to Irish law, which means that cabin crew get paid far less than Danish employees. The case in the Danish labour court was essentially seeking to determine what action was permissible if the company refused to sign a collective agreement. This time O'Leary lost. In his typically consensual style, in response he has publicly threatened to close Ryanair's other base in Denmark in Billund, though this may just be a bit of sabre-rattling.

In the meantime in response to Ryanair's behaviour several Danish investors have dumped their shares in the company, clearly in response to track record on labour standards. Disinvestment over labour issues is very rare in my experience, and the only comparable case of this happening in relation to labour issues in the global North is Walmart. So by refusing to compromise O'Leary is managing to turn Ryanair into the Walmart of airlines, not just in terms of its reputation, but in terms of the negative reaction from some large investors.

If you look at what has been happening to WalMart two things strike you. First, it has made itself into a target for long-running action, include strikes and sit-ins, by the employees it refuses to treat with respect. Second, in the long run it had to cave in and pay better wages, one of the key issues employees had been fighting over.

Ryanair just took one on the chin, it now has a choice how to respond. It is surely in the interests of all the company's stakeholders that - for once - it tries to work with its employees rather than against them. So if you work in RI and your institution holds Ryanair you might want to take a look at this.