Hey Euan Sutherland, how about I take my Co-operative bonus now?

I bank with the Co-op, shop with the Co-op and have a Co-op mortgage.

As a member of staff in a UK higher education institution (not this example, though) I’m entitled to an NUS Extra card which gives me an astonishing range of discounts at a number of major retailers. This includes 10% off at the Co-op. Until today I had only claimed a discount once. On that one occasion I didn’t feel great about it and decided that I’d rather give the Co-op the money than save it for myself.

Today, though, I got to the till and remembered the morning’s news that

“The embattled Co-operative Group, still reeling from a banking scandal and preparing to lay off up to 5,000 employees, faces a new storm over plans to pay its chief executive more than £3.5m in his first year in the job, while massively boosting the salaries and bonuses of other senior staff.”

and

“Salary consultants brought in by the Co-op based the proposed remuneration packages on comparisons with FTSE 30 and FTSE 100-listed companies of a similar size to the mutualised group that is owned by its 8 million members. But the huge salary increases are likely to be seen by some as at odds with the history of the co-operative movement and its traditionally egalitarian ethos.

“Under the proposals, Sutherland will be paid a base salary of £1.5m this year, plus a £1.5m retention payment. With pension contributions and other extras, such as compensation for buying him out of his previous contract, Sutherland will receive £3.66m this year. His predecessor, Peter Marks, received just over £1.3m last year.

“Richard Pennycook, the chief operating officer, will receive a £900,000 salary and a retention payment of £900,000. Six other executives will be paid salaries between £500,000 and £650,000 – and the same amount in retention. In the past, senior executives of the Co-op received between £200,000 and £400,000.

“It has also emerged that Rebecca Skitt, the Co-op’s chief human resources officer, who joined in February 2013, left last month with a proposed pay-off totalling more than £2m.”

at which point I got out my card and claimed my paltry £1.24.

Nobody – least of all a Co-op employee – should be getting that kind of money. The Co-op should shun that level of inequality. They should see through this kind of financial exsanguination – especially when they’re laying off the people who work at their farms and pharmacies.

And did I mention that I am not an effing charity?

I’m not dumping the Co-op but I do feel that they dumped me some time ago. My discount is going to make quite a lot of difference to me in the coming months and years. I should think the Co-op would be glad to have it, but it’s money they won’t get because they hired consultants from a financial tradition that has already got this country in trouble several times over, and then followed their recommendations to fleece me.

They badly need to get back to their mutual roots. They need to recognise the difference between greed and motivation.

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Sorry Vova, they choose differently.

Russia sneaked its military into Ukraine without insignia and established a military occupation in Crimea. Putin seems to be trying to provoke retaliation from Ukraine’s caretaker government, using the newly deposed and discredited puppet president Viktor Yanukovich as a pretext.

Sorry Vova, they choose differentlyPutin has done this for a number of reasons. One is because, as a fossil fuel bully, Russia can do what it likes in a world which refuses to green. Another is because he reckons its Black Sea Fleet based in Sevastopol has a crucial strategic role in protecting Russia’s South Western border – indeed its admiral has said Russia will never give it up. Which is related to the fact that he hopes to buffer Russia from the European Union and establish a rival to the Eurozone called the Eurasian Economic Zone; this determination to limit the European Union is a reason, if not the main reason, why he had Russian troops invade Georgia at the earliest opportunity. Another reason is that Crimea – the south-eastern peninsula that Russia is occupying – is the part that Catherine the Great conquered in 1813 and Khrushchev ‘gave’ to Ukraine in 1954, which consequently has (according to Russia Today, so perhaps a generous estimate) an ethnic Russian, Russian-speaking bare majority of 58% in the 2001 census, who make up by far the largest ethnic group, many of whom have dual Ukrainian and Russian citizenship. As an autonomous republic Crimea is far more inclined to Russia than the west of Ukraine (which looks to Europe), and in 2009 rejected a US diplomatic post which the Ukrainian government had been encouraging.

But it’s not that simple Vova, my dear nationalist. According to the sadly late Natalia Panina, a researcher at Ukraine’s Institute of Sociology, the Russians who number over 8 million or 17.3% of Ukraine’s population in the 2001 census (she among them) have not faced significant discrimination (question e2, p48) or social distance in Ukraine. In fact, they were part of the overwhelming majority of 90% who voted for Ukrainian independence when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.

On the ‘Western’ front, there are many theoretically possible actions nobody wants to take for fear of inflaming the situation (note that Russia has no such worries itself) and this means that Russia will grab Crimea. On the diplomatic front, Russia is chairing the G8, so Foreign Secretary Hague and other members will refuse to attend some imminent meetings. Somebody had better take diplomatic measures to reduce social distance between ethic Russians and other ethnic Ukrainians, including reinstating Russian as an official minority language (a big mistake on the part of the acting government because it has been both widely supported and also considered of low importance). In the UK it’s long been time to pursue a reversal of increased dependence on Russian coal in recent years (without mindlessly transferring it to authoritarian states like Qatar, where we get a chunk of our gas or narc-fuelled states like Colombia). Ukraine’s south is hot and sunny. Ukraine needs an economic boost – perhaps it would be a good idea to fund renewables like solar in the dry sunny south of Ukraine, along with the infrastructure to export it. This could help in at least two ways, I think. The UK government is actively considering withdrawing some Russian visas and freezing assets.

A bit more from other places and positions:

  • I’ve been worrying about China partnering with Russia and coming for Europe, but on Channel4 blogs, ex-AWL Paul Mason considers whether a Russian invasion of Ukraine will push the west into an economic war. He doesn’t anticipate World War 3 but the end of globalisation if (big if) China decides to get involved and sides with Russia. Perhaps then this country can stop outsourcing low wages and climate change to other people’s countries.
  • If the end of globalisation happens, then perhaps the Stop the War Coalition (London-based pro-Baathist/Islamist/Communist, anti-UK/US/EU campaign group masquerading as an anti-war group) will disband, job done. I checked by its site to confirm that they still have wildly erring priorities. Put it this way, they won’t be participating in any ‘Hands off Ukraine campaign’ unless the hands in question are ‘Western’. It’s ironic that if Stop the War were anti-Russian dissidents in Russia they’d be in prison by now. They invariably remind me how much I like the UK.
  • Yanukovich falls. Back the left! – Alliance for Workers Liberty. “Our solidarity should be with left-wing and working-class forces in Ukraine which will fight to open up democracy, to push back the far right, and to help working people in Ukraine defend themselves against the neo-liberal “reforms” now demanded by the EU and the IMF in return for loans to enable Ukraine to manage payment deadlines.”

All for now.

Update: Timothy Snyder writes authoritatively on the spurious claims from Putin about protecting Russian compatriots. Via Bob From Brockley on Twitter.