Union slams executive pay

Highly paid: Paul Davidson

Senior executive pay at the parent company of Britain’s second biggest regional newspaper group is “excessive” and “unjustified”.

This is the view of The United Brotherhood of Carpenters, a union in the US which owns 4,500 shares in Gannett (the parent company of Newsquest). It has tabled a motion at the annual shareholders’ meeting in May that calls for “commonsense executive compensation”.

The union wants to cap the chief executive’s salary at $1m (£550,000) and to “focus senior executives not on quarterly performance numbers but on long-term corporate value growth”.

According to a survey quoted by the union, chief executives earned 42 times more than a standard worker in 1982, but in 2002 the ratio was 282:1.

Gannett is the largest newspaper company in the US. It acquired Newsquest in 1999. Last year it recorded a turnover of $6.7bn (£3.7bn).

In 2003, Gannett chairman Douglas McCorkindale was paid $1.6m (£878,000) plus a bonus of $2.25m (£1.23m).

Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson is among the five most highly paid executives at Gannett. In 2003 he earned $449,389 (£246,700) with a bonus of $279,180 (£153,000) up from a salary of $390,627 (£214,000) in 2002 plus a bonus $160,339 (£88,000).

His salary increase was partly due to the changing exchange rate.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “There is a huge gap between pay for executives and journalists and it is getting bigger. Executives had a 43 per cent rise in the same year that journalists only got inflation. They are benefiting ever more while the journalists find it harder and harder to get by.”

Gannett vice-president of global communications, Tara Connell, said of the motion: “It’s a routine sort of thing that happens at a lot of American companies. We expect it will be defeated because that is the recommendation of the board of directors.

“It has no relationship whatsoever to the British union’s efforts, to the best of our knowledge.

“Executives at our companies are paid according to their performance.

These executives are instrumental in making our company profitable and returning money to shareholders.”

The NUJ has condemned ITV’s plan to pay chief executive Charles Allen up to £24m over four years, in a new remuneration package, writes Wale Azeez.

Dear said it was outrageous that Allen should benefit to such an extent “while so many of his employees are facing an uncertain future”.

“It shows one of the reasons why they wanted to save so much money.

One appears to be to divert it from programme making and journalism into the pockets of shareholders and executives.

I think MPs and others should be asking serious questions about it.”

Following the ITV merger of Carlton and Granada, the new company said it would save up to £100m and began a cost-cutting exercise. Half the workforce at Meridian Television were made redundant and up to 400 jobs threatened at ITV Central as part of plans to move the East Midlands operations to Birmingham in the West Midland

By Dominic Ponsford

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