Voting time at the Co-operative Group

The Co-operative Group has now sent out AGM and ballot papers to those of its members who are eligible to vote.

The ballot paper includes the usual motion to approve the Directors’ Remuneration Report and also an additional motion to ‘approve a change in the Executive Remuneration Policy’.  However, the Group does not make it easy to know what precisely these mean.

To get the details you have to go online to read the Annual Report. It’s worth a look. For convenience I am giving the link here.

Executive pay can be, as the Remuneration Report itself says, an emotive topic and it would be utopian to imagine that the Group could necessarily practise the wage equality successfully operated at Suma Wholefoods. The Group says that it aims to set executive salaries and bonuses at the middle of the going market rate, although this is what a lot of companies say and it’s by no means always easy to know quite what this means in practice. The motion to make a change to the Executive Remuneration Policy actually refers to a proposal to increase the CEO’s bonus arrangements while keeping his base salary unchanged.

One thing did strike me from the report. The ratio between the highest and lowest paid employees of the Group is 1:48 on base pay alone, and 1:96 when bonuses are taken into account. The Group did some recent separate research on gender pay, which found that women’s pay is on average (mean average) 18.9% below that of men. This report is also not easy to find, so to help you here’s the relevant link.

Back to the AGM. There’s also a motion asking members to approve a rule change. Again, I feel the Group should have offered more readily accessible information before asking members to vote. Having looked at the details I can advise you that the main substantive change is to increase the maximum term non-executive directors can serve from six to nine years.  I’m personally not convinced by this proposal and in the absence of any clear reasoning I am not at all sure I will be voting in favour.

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