Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bonus culture: in a parallel universe

Reporting from a world where bonuses are dished out to workers performing a public service.

Scene 1.
"The cynical, the envious and the tin foil hat wearers can whine as much as they want. Our duty is to recruit the very best", argues Hugh Jass, headmaster of a local comprehensive. "Investing in education is investing in the country's future, so if public money has to be spent, at least there's no better spending than this. If you want good teachers and a competitive edge, then large bonuses are a must", notes Mr Jass, spreading his arms. "After all", he adds, "better to reward good teachers than, say, investment bankers. Which contribute more to society?"

Scene 2.
"The NHS? It's a headhunter's dream at the moment. If your government curbed bonuses, the most talented British doctors and nurses would look for work here in the US", says Don Key, spokesperson for a large US private health care firm. "The NHS board has had legal advice that they would have to resign if the government blocked bonuses they regarded as essential to incentivise NHS staff", adds Mr Key. "There's a significant opportunity to raid that talent. I mean, if you Brits don't reward people who save your lives, where else are state funds going to go...banks???"

Scene 3.
"There is nothing worse than a sloppy bus service tarnishing the visitors' view of our city", points out Ben Dover, CEO of a bus company. "A punctual, competent, cutting edge public transport is what defines us. It is therefore in the interest of the public that we pay our staff decent bonuses. If you don't pay your best people, you will destroy your franchise. Those best drivers and staff can get jobs other places, they will leave", concludes Mr Dover.

Scene 4.
"The compensation always correlated with the results of the service", says Justin Case, Head of the Fire Service. "Our bonuses were therefore dispensed accordingly", he added. "Firefighters put their life at risk and we want to attract the best and most motivated staff", Mr Case remarks. "At the end of the day, it's not as if we're getting yearly bonuses of £1bn. Now, that would cause terrible damage to the economy".

Scene 5.
"Our soldiers are essentially the people who put their lives at risk for our country, often in very difficult conditions. Who in their right mind would continue to do that if bonuses are taken away?", are the forthright words of Dan D. Lyons, AG to the British forces. "I mean, if money isn't invested in selecting the best soldiers" continues General Lyons, "what else is the state going to spend it on, banks???"

Scene 6.
"Our workforce did what they were asked to last year and made profits. So when we consider how to treat them, the issue is how much worse can we treat them compared to any other transport service in the world", says Leigh King, union convenor at London Underground. "If you want security and efficiency to be paramount, you have to pay our staff accordingly. London would grind to a halt without us. Luckily we still live in a world where workers are rewarded for carrying out a public service, unlike bankers who are in for themselves. Let's just hope it stays this way", King concludes.