Monday 9 November 2009

Unions and Bankers

Walking the Hound through the wetness of the mill fields I'm disturbed by a call from a member. Apparently the Union, Unite, have attacked some charities for paying their CEOs a professional salary.

I speak to The Guardian journalist covering the story and take a robust line.

Tony Woodley, the General Secretary of the Union appears to be developing an unpleasant penchant for attacking the third sector. Just recently he had a go at social enterprises in the NHS in a most uninformed manner and making absurd comments about the quality of social enterprises. Myself and Allison Ogden-Newton of Social Enterprise London wrote to him asking for a meeting but now we have another unwarranted attack.

Mr Woodley and Unite seem to ignore the fact they have thousands of members in the third sector. Clearly they thinks they are second class members to those of his members in the public sector.

And he clearly has a thoroughly old fashioned view of our sector. Perhaps he thinks we are all volunteers? Jam sales and raffles? Or lovely people working at the margins on a lowly stipend to reflect the fact that we are not doing proper jobs at all.

The Union says that an "excessive" city pay culture is creeping into charities. Pardon? Which CEO exactly is receiving a bonus? (Answer none) - let alone a bonus the size of an average charity CEO salary.

What underlies this attack is an unpleasant and patronising attitude to the third sector which assumes that we are all small scale and amateur and therefore not capable of earning a proper professional salary - unlike workers in the public sector.

As I tell The Guardian , the average ACEVO member earns £57k. I suspect that is less than some union General Secretaries? I must research that. What exactly is Mr Woodley paid? I shall enquire.

And our recent pay survey indicates that some 20% of members took a pay freeze this year. Again I wonder if Union's GSs showed such restraint?

Perhaps Mr Woodley would care to constrain his attacks to the real City culture of bonuses and accept that in our sector we should have a professional level of pay for a professional job. When some of our CEOs are running organisations of thousands of staff and turnover of over £100m pa then we need to pay effectively. And as I told The Guardian journalist, our survey also showed that many members coming from the private and public sectors took a pay cut to become a third sector CEO.

What disgusts me most about this attack is that it comes from a fine Union, one that I worked for under the great Jack Jones. He would not have dreamt of making such squalid attacks on charities. Shame on you Mr Woodley.

Hugely disgruntled I returned to my Roast Beef only to discover the boss of Goldman Sachs telling us he is doing "God's purpose". John Low, my former Chair, speaking at our recent conference said we need to avoid " bank bashing". To an extent he is right. We need banks to return to profitability and contribute to a growth economy. But the problem is they are just often so unrepentant at past bad practise it is difficult not to have a go.

The boss of Goldman Sachs is probably a better financier than he is a theologian. He is clearly a little hazy about his Gospels. Especially the story of Christ turning the money changers out of the Temple or when he declared it will be harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle. And saying that the meek and poor will inherit the earth.

But I have a deal for the British Bankers Association. I will desist from attacking bankers if they agree to "tithe" their bonuses. Francis Maude MP told our conference last week that Victorians would regularly tithe 10% of their wealth to charity. This is a biblical practise. So if Goldman Sachs and others agree that 10% of their wealth goes to charity they may well indeed be doing God's purpose. The facts however point in a different direction. With honourable exceptions many rich people's giving is meagre. Indeed the poor give a higher proportion of their salary to charity than do the rich.

I look forward to all this changing. Angela Knight- time for you to tell your members to tithe.


BritishBankers said...

British Bankers' Association here. Oh by all means keep on attacking us. But surely you cannot deny the banks contribute actively and generously to the voluntary sector.

The March 2009 ‘Guide to UK Company Giving’, published by the Directory for Social Change, showed that Barclays, Lloyds and HSBC were the largest corporate charitable donors in the country in 2007/08.

And although we have no idea what the 429,000 people working for the UK's banks spend their money on, we do know the banks were enthusiatic early adopters of give as you earn schemes.

One further thought. The UK's banks have given several successive undertakings now not to return to the bonus culture of the past. It isn't at all clear there will be any bonuses to tithe.

Sir Stephen Bubb said...

It is a very fair comment to make on the suport that banks make to charities . I acknowledge that . Indeed RBS are strong backers of acevo , as i commented recently after my breakfast with the great Hugh Biddel. So it
would be churlish of me to refer to the rather crude attempts by Llyods in Scotland to change the terms of their endowmnets to their Foundation in a very negative way , an attempt rightly rebuffed by the Foundation!
Lets see what happens on bonuses . It might help your case if you did not try to defend them in the way they have been used before and stopped all that nonsense about if we take money away in tax or stop bonuses then all those wonderful top people ( ie the ones who got us into this problem) will flee our shores . Always a doddgy argument at the best of times , and now simplt absurd.
And perhaps there is an opportunity for you to show support for our sector by ensuring the unclaimed assets are handed over and you supprot a Community Reinvestment Act . Now that would be progress!
And when is Angela going to come and speak to our members?