Bonuses soar for Australia CEOs as workers struggle for pay

Sydney • Surging bonus payments have pushed pay for Australia’s CEOs to a record high, at the same time stagnant wage growth prevents the bulk of the country’s workers from seeing their incomes rising.

Bonus payments rose 18% last year and have increasingly become a “sure thing” for executives, results from a survey commissioned by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) showed. The group, whose members collectively manage A$2.2 trillion (RM6.46 trillion) in pension fund assets and own 10% on average of every company listed on the S&P/ ASX 200 Index, said it will increase scrutiny of payments and recommend members vote against excessive awards.

Rising rewards at the top of Australian businesses come at a time when the vast majority of workers are struggling. Wage growth hasn’t reached 3% for five years and less than half of Australians hold permanent, full-time jobs with leave entitlements.

“At a time when public trust in business is at a low ebb and wages growth is weak, board decisions to pay large bonuses just for hitting budget targets rather than exceptional performance are especially tone-deaf,” ACSI CEO Louise Davidson said. “This may be a sign that boards have lost sight of the link between a company’s social licence and the expectations of communities and investors.”

Davidson said ACSI would look closely at bonuses when earnings season gets underway early next month. “If they’re not transparent and reflective of performance, we will be recommending that our members vote against those remuneration reports.” — Bloomberg