By Lynn Smith
CULTURE OF VIOLENCE AT COKE
Determined to make his point at Coca-Cola's AGM in Wilmington Delaware a few weeks ago, Ray Rogers of New York's "Corporate Campaign" took the microphone.
When chairman and chief executive Doug Daft had had enough of this he told Rogers "you have exceeded your speaking time". Rogers refused to relinquish the mic, security guards moved in and surrounded him, a scuffle began and Rogers fell to the floor.
He was then hustled outside the hotel where 20 other protesters with placards were voicing their anger on the same issue. Spokesperson Jana Silverman (a graduate of Columbia University where she studied human rights) said nine union organizers had been killed over the past 10 years in Columbia, mostly in connection with negotiations at Coke bottling plants.
THE RICH GET RICHER WHILE THE POOR....
On April 23, Frank Lowy announced that he was merging his three listed company trusts (Westfield Trust, Westfield America Trust and Carindale Trust) into one. Lowy's new Westfield Group is the largest shopping centre operator on planet earth with combined assets of $34 billion. Westfield owns and operates 123 shopping complexes housing 19,500 retailers in Australia, the USA, the UK and New Zealand. Said big Frank "there comes a time when you need to examine yourself and need to be in touch with the needs of the market".
It's a pity big Frank (one of the three richest people in Australia) did not "examine himself" in relation to the wages and conditions of cleaners working overnight to make his US centres look nice when shoppers start coming in the mornings. These workers (called janitors in the US) are paid wages that are below the poverty line.
"Justice for Janitors" campaign: details on the web.
DID YOU GET PAID 85% MORE LAST YEAR?
THESE GUYS DID.
The average fees paid to non-executive directors on the boards of miscellaneous industrial companies and those in the transport industry rose 85% between 2003 and 2004, according to a recent report by executive remuneration specialists RPC (a non-executive director is someone not employed by the company full time such as CEOs, general managers etc. who may also be on the board. Non-executive directors can on the board of any number of corporations at one time).
The fees for non-executive directors doing bugger all in alcohol, tobacco, paper and packaging industries also rose... but by a mere 63%.
You'd think this lot would be happy campers... flitting by jet from boardroom to boardroom across the country, enjoying free banquets and top wines supplied by the finest restaurants in the land. Not so.
"Remuneration is going to increase due to the increased risk" said Owen Thomas of RPC. "In my discussions with non-executive directors over the last 18 months, there are a lot saying it's not worth it".
Increased risk? Does he mean falling from a building under construction... having to take stress leave because of a bullying boss... or getting the sack i.e. the kinds of risks workers have to take? No way. The "increased risk" according to Thomas is "increased responsibility due to increasing corporate governance requirements". In other words, doing your job.
PRODUCE MORE AND YOUR WAGES GO UP, RIGHT?
Not if you're Nick Bowen, boss Of heavy engineering contractor McMahon Holdings
Last year Nick's bank account swelled by $803,415 which includes a bonus of $150,000. His just reward for a sterling performance by the company he runs? During the year the contract miner boosted revenue by a shattering one per cent. Profits? Up from $7.1 million to $8.5 million.
Ha ha. But McMahon's chairman and the board are onto him, right? Surely, next year we can look forward to a leaner, meaner Mr. Bowen.
Surprise, surprise... big Nick has just wangled a new package to run until 2006 which will see him take home anything up to $2.5 million per year.
His base salary will be $735,000. On top of this he could earn a cash bonus of up to $750,000 and be given four million McMahon shares if performance hurdles are met (worth $1.1 million at the current sharemarket valuation). When you realise Bowen already owns $621,000 worth of shares and has options valued at $576,000 you'll see he's onto a good thing.
WHERE'S YOUR SYMPATHY?
THE WORLD'S SECOND RICHEST MAN IS IN PAIN
Super speculator Warren Buffet announced at the AGM of Berkshire Hathaway in Omaha Nebraska on May 1 that he was in a "painful position". Buffet's problem? Hemorrhoids? Impending bankruptcy?
Nope. The man known as the Oracle of Omaha announced to the 15,000 wannabes jammed into Omaha's Qwest centre who were hanging on his every word that Berkshire Hathaway has got US$36billion in cash and "was having difficulty investing it".
In further remarks (that should see him rebadged as the Icon of Irony) Buffet said that George Bush Jnr's tax cuts were "tilted towards the rich" (surprise, surprise) and "I've got more money in my pocket because of the tax change and I don't think it is a good idea".
Ever thought of giving it back, Warren?