Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Occupy LSX and Corporate Greed!

Forget the Big Society (or Big State for that matter), its the Big Market that is still calling the shots! Research conducted by Incomes Data Services (IDS) into directors pay released on Friday reveals that FTSE 100 directors have seen total earnings increase by as average of 49% in the last financial year, and are now averaging £2,697,664 per annum. Following the pattern of bankers bonuses announced earlier this year, the increase in earnings of the directors of blue chip companies bears no relation to the level of profits, social value or overall benefit to the economy of these companies. They also bear no relation to the increases of other employees in these companies who on average only received increases of 3.2% whilst inflation has peaked at just over 5% for the year. Commenting on these findings, Steve Tatton of IDS said: "At a time when employees are experiencing real wage cuts and risk losing their livelihoods, without further explanation it may be difficult for FTSE100 companies to justify the significant increase in earnings awarded to their directors."

FTSE100 companies will be quick to point out that market rates dictate what they have to pay to attract and retain the right calibre director for a blue chip company. However, at an average ratio of  262:1 of top to bottom earners in these companies (compared to 15:1 in the public sector and 10:1 in the voluntary sector) this argument is both fallacious and immoral! In addition, the Independent on Sunday reported that  a  highly critical report into the moral standards of bankers has been suppressed by St Paul's Cathedral amid fears that it would inflame tensions over the Occupy London tent protest. The report, based on a survey of 500 City workers who were asked whether they thought they were worth their lucrative salaries and bonuses, which was due to be published last Thursday, is understood to raise profound concerns about the banking sector's willingness to accept responsibility for the financial crisis.

These reports highlight the fact that despite the key role that St Paul's Institute has played in facilitating debate on key issues and concerns about the excesses of the City of London (including recent debates on executive remuneration and the introduction on a financial transaction tax), that these debates do not appear to have any significant impact in changing the behaviour of City executives or the financial institutions they represent. This calls into question the Cathedral's earlier proposal to facilitate another debate with key stakeholders from the City and a delegation from the protesters on specific issues of concern (on the condition that they agree to leave the Cathedral precinct voluntarily), as it would appear that City of London executives are either totally out of touch with the social realities in the UK, or quite frankly don't care!

The two week protest outside St Paul's Cathedral by Occupy LSX has become a prophetic drama involving the Church, the protestors and the City of London (both officials and bankers) being enacted before a watching world!  The Church has not fared too well in this drama thus far and it is incumbent on us as Christians to begin to ask some fundamental questions about our prophetic and pastoral roles in a society where poverty and inequality is rapidly increasing and appeasement of the financial services sector remains the Government's default position (despite the assurances of fairness and that we're all in this together)! What Would Jesus Do? remains the fundamental question not only for St Paul's but for all of us who claim to be followers of the one who taught us that you cannot love God and Mannon!

Our churches are part of a coalition which has launched a campaign called Close the Gap which is seeking to address the disparities in our soceity though prophetic, pastoral and prayerful action. The first focus of this campaign is on closing the Tax Gap and on Monday, a delegation from five of the UK's major Christian churches and organisations delivered an open letter to Chancellor George Osborne at the Treasury demanding that the government take action for Fair Taxes to Close the Gap between rich and poor. You can join our church leaders in calling for a fairer tax system by emailing the Chancellor at

The United Reformed Church and the Methodist Church are also members of the Robin Hood Tax campaign calling for the introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) and have called on the Prime Minister to support the call for an FTT to be introduced at the G20 Summit in Cannes on 3-4 November. You can also support this call by means of an email to David Cameron ahead of this crucial summit. See for details