Given that this wage disparity persists amid the worst cost-of-living crisis this country has seen in decades, Fielder’s comments about the ‘politics of envy’ seem particularly egregious.
And for people whose wages have stagnated, it’s painful to listen. They are not “envious” of the obscene amount of money their bosses make, they just want better conditions and pay that reflects their hard work.
Yusuf*, who works for a retail company that pocketed more than £500m in the first year of the pandemic (down from even more astronomical figures), was earning below average at the time. But the company’s owners have just been featured on the Sunday Times 2022 Rich List.
The 34-year-old Londoner watched his bosses and CEOs line their pockets while he earned £25,000 a year (after initially starting at £21,000). This despite working late at night, early in the morning and on weekends.
He tells HuffPost UK: “It’s ironic that the company talked about career growth and mental wellbeing. However, our salaries did not reflect that, nor did our communications with superiors, I did not feel supported or valued despite working beyond my contractual skills and hours.
“Our team did a great job and the new management thought that buying us a couple of lucky lottery tickets was enough of a reward – this was our Christmas present. At the next team meeting, [our boss] he bragged about how much the department had changed; it was our hard work that did this.
“Places like this are toxic.”
After four years of this, Yusuf quit his job, and not because he didn’t like the work he did. He just wanted better pay and more respect.
Many workers are in the same boat as Yusuf. And they’re being especially tested right now, according to the High Pay Center, which makes the “politics of envy” comment all the more damaging, he says.
“The argument put forth by the Adam Smith Institute is damaging,” an HPC spokesperson tells HuffPost UK. “It suggests that our criticism of these pay gaps is based on envy, rather than our real opinion, which is that the pay distribution is not proportional to the contribution that different employees make to the success of a company, and is based on the false notion that there is a very important difference. small number of exceptional people who would be capable of leading a company”.
It also ignores the fact that paying workers higher wages is also beneficial for companies, suggests the High Pay Center.
“Paying more to those with low and middle incomes would likely have a positive impact on economic growth, as these demographic groups spend a much higher proportion of their income in the real economy, while those with exceptionally high incomes are more likely to accumulate your wealth instead of spending it.”
With inflation, Brexit, the Ukraine-Russia war and the pandemic, many UK workers find themselves in a precarious situation. Deaf statements not only ignore your plight, they sidestep the real issue. Workers don’t want a piece of the exploitative pie, they just want fair wages and conditions.
*Name changed to provide anonymity.