Not all highly-paid CEOs and capitalistic tycoons are the greedy villains some groups politicize them to be. Case in point: Lord Simon Wolfson, the CEO of Next (a UK department store chain) was recently given a $3.6 million bonus, and turned it all over to his employees.
Though some CEOs have donated their bonuses to charity over the years (Whole Foods CEO John Mackey donated his 2009 bonus to the Global Animal Partnership), we can’t really think of another case where a boss has given his bonus to his employees.
Neither can Lord Wolfson’s Next, which released a statement:
“It’s the first time that any chief executive has ever done anything like this,” a spokesman said. “All our staff of 19,400 will share in it as a cash bonus. It works out to about 1 percent of their basic salary.”
Thus far, the reaction from Next employees has been positive. Though $3.6 million might not split into a hug boost among 20,000 employees, it seems as though most of them appreciate the gesture, if not the few extra bucks in their pockets.
“We’ve gotten Tweets from staff,” the spokesman told ABC News.
Wolfson announced his intentions in an email to Next employees. In the email, he described his decision as “a gesture of thanks and appreciation…for the hard work and commitment you have given to Next over the past three years and through some very tough times.”
He added, “I remain very grateful for the way in which everyone has helped to navigate our business through this recession.”
Public reaction to Wolfson’s generosity has been positive, as well. Commentators have begun to wonder whether there will be public pressure on other CEOs to do the same.
Unions representing Next workers have reportedly been silent on the issue. At least one U.S.-based union wasn’t exactly charmed by the gesture, either. Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), said:
“Working people do not want charity. They need guaranteed wages and benefits–the kind that come with a union contract. They shouldn’t be forced to hope that their employer will have a momentary impulse–a munificent impulse–to share his massive wealth.
“We don’t need the head of Macy’s to turn over his bonus to his employees. We want him to recognize that his employees need to be treated with dignity,” Applebaum concluded.
What do you think? Do you applaud Lord Wolfson’s gesture, or do you think it’s merely showmanship with little actual impact?