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Britain’s CEOs get 16% pay rise even as workers struggle

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Workers walk through the Canary Wharf financial district in London

The bosses of Britain’s biggest companies saw their pay jump 16% in 2022, sending their average earnings to 118 times the median UK full-time worker’s while employees struggled with soaring inflation, new research showed on Monday.

The median pay of a FTSE 100 CEO last year hit 3.91 million pounds ($5 million), the highest level since 2017 and 500,000 pounds up on 2021, according to the annual research from the High Pay Centre.

The ratio of the median CEO’s pay to a median UK full-time worker, at 118, was up from 108 times in 2021 and 79 times in 2020, the think tank, which campaigns for fairer pay and a greater voice for workers on company boards, calculated.

“At a time when so many households are struggling with living costs, an economic model that prioritises a half a million pound pay rise for executives who are already multi-millionaires is surely going wrong somewhere,” said High Pay Centre Director Luke Hildyard.

British CEO pay remains far lower than in the United States, however. A new study this month showed that S&P 500 chief executives made $16.7 million on average in 2022, 272 times the pay of their median workers, although that marked a decline on both measures over the prior year as CEO compensation fell with poor stock returns.

High executive pay in Britain has long been contentious, particularly with pay for ordinary workers rising far more slowly and barely budging in real terms over the past decade.

UK basic pay growth has this year hit a record rate, official data shows, but this has only recently started to keep pace with galloping consumer prices.

“While workers in sectors across the board were forced onto picket lines to make ends meet, these top brass were trousering fortunes,” said Gary Smith, General Secretary of the GMB trade union.

“If Ministers genuinely think high wages are going to cause spiralling inflation, they probably need to think about curbing pay at the top of the tree, rather than everyone else.”

Four of the FTSE 100 CEOs earned more than 10 million pounds last year, the High Pay Centre found, led by AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot, who received 15.3 million pounds. The other three included BAE Systems’ Charles Woodburn, CRH’s Albert Manifold and BP’s Bernard Looney.

The research also found that the median pay for FTSE female CEOs was 3.91 million pounds, in line with men, although there were only eight female FTSE 100 CEOs in 2022, down from nine in 2021.

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