Despite the spectacular vaporisation of trillions of dollars of financial assets, and the collapse of more than a score of banks around the world, we haven't seen a single banker jump out of a window in Wall Street or its equivalents around the world.
These bankers have little reason to jump to their death because they've all been issued with golden parachutes! But they are only handing out parachutes for those in first class.
You probably would have heard by now that, in the last five years, Wall Street's five biggest firms paid more than US$3 billion to their top executives — the same people overseeing the very mess the financial system is in now!
But you didn't think that was happening in Australia, right? Not with the captains of Australia Inc. being much more virtuous, of which we have bi-partisan assurance from the pollies in Canberra.
Sorry, not true.
"A survey of 69 chief executives who lead top-100 companies has revealed that their average fixed remuneration — excluding cash bonuses and share sweeteners — more than doubled [between 2001 and 2007], rising from [A]$888,407 to $1.83 million", the October 28 Age reported.
The CEOs' average short-term bonuses tripled from $769,125 to $2.18 million and their long-term incentives, paid as shares, had jumped in the year to 2007 by 44%.
The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors says it is not clear what — if anything — the CEOs did to deserve such bonuses.
Meanwhile, a recent study found that 17% of employees surveyed between March and July were finding it difficult or very difficult to get by financially, and another 39.5%
were just coping [see article back page].
Lead researcher in the Australia At Work study, Brigid van Wanrooy, added that the study also revealed that:
• one in five workers said they could not always pay debts on time;
• average working hours for full-time workers stood at 44 hours a week and nearly 30% of those interviewed wanted to work fewer hours, and;
• one in three workers holds a "precarious" job such as casual or contract work where they do not have the full protection of industrial laws and regulations.
If the shape of Australia's working majority looks grim as a global recession approaches, consider the chilling report from Juan Somavia, director-general of the International Labour Organization, published by India's The Hindu on October 25: "We project that world unemployment could increase by 20 million by the end of 2009 — surpassing the 200 million mark of global unemployed for the first time.
"People working in such sectors as construction, automotive, tourism, finance, services and real estate will be hit hardest first.
"What's more, the number of working poor living on less than a dollar a day could rise by some 40 million — and those living on two dollars a day could rise by more than 100 million.
"And grim as these numbers are, they could prove to be underestimates if the effect of the current economic contraction and looming recession are not quickly confronted."
This is not simply a crisis on Wall Street, Somavia warned, it is a crisis on all streets.
"We need an economic rescue plan for working people and the real economy, with rules and policies that deliver decent work and productive enterprises."
That is what we need, but such policies will have to be fought for with people's power movements of the sort Green Left Weekly has long championed and built.
So far we've seen the corporate rich hand out the golden parachutes to themselves. But the people's movement, including GLW, urgently needs your support to help save the rest of us from the capitalist crisis.
Please make a donation to our fighting fund. We have
raised $173,797 through donations and numerous fundraisers (see our calendar on page 23 for details of the next fundraising event near you), but we need your help to raise the remaining $76,203 to make our $250,000 target by the end of this year.
You can directly deposit a donation at: Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 901992. Alternatively, ring in your donation by credit card on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia only), send us a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007,
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