Monday, 24 July 2017

And he was doing so well until then...

In responding to last week’s release of details about high salaries for some BBC staff, Corbyn made some good points.  He started by saying that the issue isn’t just about a few very high-paid performers in one organization, and that the issue of gender inequality goes much further than that.  I agree.  He moved on to talk about the wider issue of pay inequality, and suggested a statutory limit of 20 times the lowest salary in an organization for the pay of the highest paid.  I might quibble a bit about the number 20, but any number quoted in this context is going to be essentially arbitrary and it’s better to start with a high limit than with no limit, so I agreed with him on that as well.
Then he went and spoiled it all by adding the words “in the public sector”.  Why?  Pay inequality between the highest paid and the lowest paid is a much bigger problem in the private sector than it is in the public sector, and insofar as pay inequality is a driver of wealth inequality and inequality of opportunity, the private sector represents a much bigger problem.  It’s as though politicians, of all colours, can’t resist falling into the meme of believing that the public sector is somehow less useful and needs more control than the private sector, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
On frequent justification for that line is that public sector salaries are somehow being paid for out of ‘our money’, whilst private sector salaries are not.  This is demonstrable nonsense.  Taking just the world of broadcasting as an example, there are three different mechanisms by which we all pay the salaries of those involved.  For programs on the BBC we pay a licence fee for possessing and using a television set; for subscription services such as satellite or cable we pay a monthly fee to allow access to them; and for services supported by advertising, we contribute to the salaries of those involved every time that we purchase any product advertised.  And in every case, that is true whether we watch any of the programs or not.  And in the case of programs supported by advertising, we make that contribution even if we have no television.
In all cases, the salaries of broadcasters and managers are paid for out of ‘our money’, it’s only the route by which we pay that is any different.  Broadcasting is but one example, similar statements could be made about any other industry or activity – ultimately, the salaries of those involved are paid for by us, whether as customers or taxpayers, and the argument that we have a more direct interest in the salaries of those paid for by one particular method stems from ideology rather than logic.  It starts from the underlying assumption that the public sector is somehow a ‘burden’ rather than an asset, and it’s disappointing, to say the least, to see Corbyn effectively starting from the same viewpoint.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Would you categorize the royal family for public sector pay awards?!