Fat cats - it is a phrase that trips off the tongue and fits snugly into headlines. At September's TUC conference, they dominated the newspapers, gaining more unwanted labels such as 'greedy bastards', 'bloated rodents' and 'executives who enjoy the politics of the pig trough'. But is British business really run by cream-hogging chairmen?
The answer is yes, and no. Resource consultancy William M Mercer surveyed the top 20 companies in the UK and found that the current average salary for chief executives is £549,000. Far more upsetting for TUC bosses is the incredible rate at which wages of some top bosses are growing. Market researcher Incomes Data Services and Arthur Andersen found that senior directors at the top 350 companies in the UK received pay increases of 17.8% in the last financial year.
Yet look outside this bracket of the top 350-companies and the picture is very different. A survey by the Institute of Management and Remuneration Economics, the market researcher, shows pay increases for executives in companies with an annual turnover of less than £60 million fell behind the overall average in the UK in 1997 and 1998. Directors of small companies received a mere 3.2% rise in earnings last year. The average chief executive in a small business with 250-500 employees earns £64,500, according to Remuneration Economics' figures. In companies with upwards of 1,000 employees, average pay is £145,000, but other small company directors receive £39,000.