It is possible to take home millions of dollars in pay. But what’s the dark secret?

Published: 14/09/2022
Category: Workers rights
Published: 14/09/2022
Category: Workers rights

At first glance, it looks like there is a secret behind the extraordinary figures of CEO pay packets. After all, how is it even possible that anyone person can ‘earn’ hundreds of millions of dollars? 

Here’s their three-step secret to a pay extravaganza: 

First, CEOs have what is called their ‘fixed pay’. This is akin to what your average full-time or part-time worker would understand as a salary (although not quite at the same pay bracket let’s just say).  

At this point, around a dozen top CEOs in Australia are ‘merely’ hanging around the $2.5 million mark.  

Second, you have a bonus which is added on top of that fixed pay each year. In Australia, three CEOs received bonuses of more than $5 million. Each

Third, a CEO has ‘realised pay’. This comes from the shares and options they own, which is how you have Afterpay founders Anthony Eisen and Nick Milnar taking home a record $264 million even though the annual report says they only received a combined $3.35 million in pay.  

With this approach to CEO pay in mind, the fact that Australian CEOs earn 100 times more than the average worker becomes are lot more comprehensible, if no less shocking.  

Great pay for CEOs comes at great cost for workers

It is not simply that the numbers are scary. It is the behaviour behind them that is truly frightening for workers.  

We have seen how CEOs and senior executives would rather put workers’ lives on the line than cut their own pay. 

In his bonus alone, BHP CEO Mike Henry received almost $19 million. He was one of the three CEOs in Australia who had a bonus last year of more than $5 million.  

But BHP is not the only oil and gas giant to rake in mindbogglingly high profits. Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and BP collectively doubled their multi-million-dollar profits from last year.   

Giant oil and gas companies operating in Australia have engaged in cost-cutting measures that have resulted in dangerous corner cutting.  

Last year, three workers were almost crushed to death by a decommissioned rig, another suffered severe burns, and another two workers were harmed on a Woodside vessel – all in just over a month.  

The Australian Workers’ Union and the Maritime Workers’ Union have joined forces to make sure not only to protect worker safety but also achieve double figure pay rises for offshore oil and gas industry workers.   

How you can land a pay rise

But you don’t need to be working on the rigs to achieve decent wage increases. Union members across the country are coming together to negotiate better wages in their workplaces.  

We turn up every day to change our workplaces and it works. On average, union members earn 32 per cent more than non-members. And that has been achieved with our current bargaining system in place. With a new system, we can achieve even better pay for all workers.  

Workers in unions won’t stop showing up until there is equality, and that means ensuring fair wages in all workplaces.   

Earn higher wages as a union member

Cover photo credit: Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

It is possible to take home millions of dollars in pay. But what’s the dark secret?

It is possible to take home millions of dollars in pay. But what’s the dark secret?