A few weeks ago the heads of all the major banks met to discuss what they were going to do about this years’ bonuses. How were they going to explain away a bonus pot of £7 billion?
Many thought that the fact that they were meeting at all was a sign that it had finally dawned on them that in austerity Britain this was a very sensitive issue. Had they come to their senses at last? Were they about to rein in their avarice? Unfortunately no, the meeting had a different agenda. The real purpose was to hatch a cunning plan.
After much deliberation they decided the best way out of the problem would be to shift the responsibility of bonuses somewhere else, but where? The government of course! Those clever fellows decided to plonk the problem in the lap of the government. If the government was going to continue to be beastly to them about bonuses, then they could have the problem.
We’ve told the government that there’s no point in our reaching some kind of collective agreement on pay, if ministers are still going to use the kind of rhetoric against us that damages our reputations and demoralises our staff,” said one bank leader. “We’re looking for a response from ministers, which makes it clear they recognise we’re doing our bit on pay and also recognises that we have an important role to play in the recovery – which would be set back if we’re attacked all the time by ministers”.
Oh dear me, how petulant can you get? It almost brings a tear to the eye! Luckily the response from the government was swift and to the point.
“There’ll be no kind of contract with us, or formal public agreement. If banks show they ‘get it’, then inevitably you’ll see less criticism of them by us”.
What is clear is that the banks don’t ‘get it’ and they have no intention of ever ‘getting it’. And what is ‘it’? ‘It’ is proportionality. The banks just do not understand that this is the main reason why people get so angry about bank bonuses. We have all been given the bankers’ finger again.
Perhaps the best way to deal with this problem is to have a Bankers’ Bonus Tax. Tax banks the same amount as they pay in bonuses. Simple and proportional, what could be better?