The Fate of Fred the Shred; a saga of our times

Believe me, I have very little -if any- sympathy for the now Mr Fred Goodwin. But I am left feeling uncomfortable at what looks and smells to me like a piece of political expediency which arguably tends towards a lynch mob mentality.

After all, it surely became apparent that the huge disservice that Mr Goodwin did to the industry for which he had received his knighthood for services to, was not now in 2012 but some years previously.

There is a case to argue that his knighthood should have been rescinded but whatever one thinks about the honours system, that is a very serious step to contemplate and it should not be done as some sort of attempted quick-fix because of arguments about his successor\’s pay and remuneration package.

And talking of Stephen Hester, his £2.1m pay and bonus package is in the stratosphere compared to the rest of public sector pay. But there is an uncomfortable truth here: that was the deal he was offered and that was the deal he signed to do the job. Am I the only one who feels uneasy about attempts to renegotiate contracts once they have been signed and enacted? How would we feel if people tried to interfere in our members\’ terms and conditions like that?

At the root of all this, in my view, it is the now surely wholly discredited system of bonus payments in the finance sector. There\’s a very good piece in today\’s papers by Simon Jenkins about just that (

But then again, these people are hardly living in poverty are they? Even without this sideshow about foul bonus payments, the basic salary level is very high. And the bigger they are the harder they fall.

Talking of which, and switching industries, I was told of one high flier who I hear has had to put his posh house on the market and take his kids out of private school as a result of his fall from grace. “Don\’t you feel a little sorry for him?” said someone in my acquaintance. I have to say I do not. If you want to run with the pack then you can be hunted by the pack. Or put another way, if this is the bed you make, one day you may well lie in it.

Because, after all, that is the trade-off that historically has applied: the captains of industry and the private sector would reap mega-rewards but would also be exposed to risk and job insecurity. In the public sector, the reward would be as much about service as pay, and commitment to society was recognised with a decent final salary index-linked pension.

But are those days are slipping into history? Large chunks of the finance sector have not been had not been able to sustain themselves and are now to all intents and purposes in the public sector. And we seem to have a widespead failure to truly understand that however strong the arguments for public sector pension reform, in undertaking this task you are tinkering (and I know that\’s an understatement) with a compact with the people who keep our society going. Thus the subject will be need to be handled with utmost delicacy and the greatest respect to those involved.

Let me at once acknowledge that all of the above is necessarily broadbrush. But the future does not have to be like this. There is nothing inevitable about decline or that these events will repeat themselves. The key question for trade unionists in the CWU and elsewhere, young and old, is what are we as individuals and to do today and every day to make a difference.