Wednesday, 17 October 2018 05:48

Telstra shareholders bite back, reject executives' bonuses Featured

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Telstra shareholders bite back, reject executives' bonuses Pixabay

ANALYSIS The big news at Telstra's annual general meeting on Tuesday wasn't the fact that the telco reported another drop in profits. Rather it was that the top executives still expected bonuses after another performance that could hardly be described as stellar.

But this did not pass unnoticed for once.

A little over three-fifths of the shareholders (61.98%) who voted on the amount of bonuses to be paid to non-performing executives said a resounding "no", constituting a first strike under the Corporations Act.

If more than 25% vote against next year's remuneration report, it could mean a spill of the board. Lots of people comfortably ensconced in sinecures and earning sums that they do not deserve may well be tossed out.

This was duly noted in Telstra's note to the ASX: "As more than 25% of the votes were cast against this resolution, this constitutes a first strike for the purposes of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)."

The representative of the Telstra workers was understandably jubilant about the vote. CEPU Communications Union NSW Branch secretary and national president, Shane Murphy, said it was heartening to see the report rejected.

“Shareholders have rightly held Telstra executives to account today,” Murphy said. “Shareholders have done the right thing today and rejected the Telstra remuneration report. Why should we allow these Telstra executives to pay themselves bonuses while they destroy jobs and the foundations of this once iconic company?

“Telstra executives’ attempt to give themselves big bonuses at a time when jobs are being axed and workers are being asked to accept a cut in take-home pay is beyond offensive.

“These executives are so far out of step with reality it’s unbelievable. The top six executives are collectively paid 200 times more than the average Telstra worker. The inequity is ridiculous.

“While the executives were trying to give themselves massive bonuses, Telstra workers are being asked to swallow a pay cut in real terms in enterprise bargaining, which is still underway. It’s great to see that shareholders have seen the inequity in that and rejected the remuneration report."

Telstra chairman John Mullen suggested that complex remuneration calculations could be replaced by a traditional payment structure such as half cash, half shares locked in for five years.

"Maybe there is a case for doing away entirely with all these complex schemes and just go back to a fixed salary commensurate with the difficulty of the role," he said. "The AGM would be over in half the time."

Both Mullen and chief executive Andy Penn had a laundry list of excuses to offer for the company's poor performance: the NBN Co, additional mobile competition and so on.

But when Telstra complains about the NBN Co eating its lunch, one must remember that the company was given the chance, by governments of both persuasions, to build the network.

At that time, with an amazing lack of foresight, Telstra put its back up and laid down the most outrageous of terms if it was to do the job.

Finally, it was left to the equally mulish Stephen Conroy, then Labor communications minister, to act, and he, along with the incumbent prime minister, Kevin Rudd, set up the NBN Co in 2009.

The rest, as they say it, is history.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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