Theo Spierings: salary of $160,000 per week; $32,000 per ‘working’ day

by Don Franks

Not everyone admires the bloke but I believe Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings is due some appreciation.

If we have eyes to see it, Theo’s done us a favour.

This kiwi dairy worker has jumped into the headlines, not for what he’s done or not done at the office but on account of the size of his pay packet. A total of $8.32 million in 2017, a 78.5 per cent increase  from last year.

Theo Spierings’ earnings are made up of a $2.46m base salary, superannuation benefits of $170,036, a short-term incentive payment of $1.832m and a long-term incentive payment of $3.855m, the co-operative’s latest annual report shows.

Twenty-three other Fonterra executives received up to $1m for their efforts, five of those have recently left the firm, possibly feeling a bit deprived at their loss of relativity.

So what favour has Theo Spierings done us New Zealanders who can’t afford as much cream and butter as we’d like to put on the table?

The Fonterra boss stands as a reminder of several important truths. A reminder that capitalism is, beneath its spin, a hideously distorted social system. Like tobacco, the size of Spierings’ ridiculous pay packet is completely legal. If it was doubled to over $18 million it would still be legal. 

The political offspring of that is that no party in parliament is going to seriously campaign for Theo have his salary slashed. Jacinda Adern will not be crying “let’s do this!” 

Spierings’ total package puts him top paid among New Zealand CEOs.

Former Sky City CEO Nigel Morrison received $6.4m in 2016 in base salary plus dividends and leave entitlements, while former Fletcher Building CEO Mark Adamson was given $4.7m.

Why on earth do the corporates fork out these crazy amounts to select individuals? No-one can really be worth this sort of money for one year of office hours can they?

I believe the amounts  are paid to buy these creatures’ complete loyalty, so that they will unflinchingly front for any shitty thing their capitalist owners require from them.

More to the point, why do we, with many of us on under-paid, insecure contracts, or with hungry kids, or reduced to sleeping in our cars, tolerate this massive and growing inequality?

There are many reasons and one of them is that most of us still have faith in the present political system.

We accept the media hype that it matters very much who finally wins the present horse trading to cobble a coalition and form the next New  Zealand government.

In the most important respects it doesn’t matter. Business decisions are made outside of parliament behind firmly closed doors. Decisions such as how much Fonterra bosses get paid, what prices they charge us for our milk or what branches they close down may affect our lives but we’re not allowed to vote for these things.

Capitalist democracy means wine for a few and the rest can go sniff the cork.

If we want to start turning this round and get some social justice we should worry less about who’s in parliament and more about how working people can get some real political clout.

  1. Susanne K says:

    The “incentive pay” is impressive considering Fonterra’s profits were down by 11%.

    Lovely how only top executives get “incentive pay”; the workers in the dairy factories and on the farms, meanwhile, are supposed to work without incentives. Well, other than the “incentive” that if they don’t work, they can’t live.

  2. Pete says:

    I used to work at Fonterra – highly qualified and ultimately resigned after 2 years of working in the company because I received a 1% pay increment while the fat cat C-suite were lapping up the sorts of pay increases that Theo received. I am sure that Theo works hard but I also know that factory staff and engineers work very hard too – its rather absurd. It has little to do with jealousy and more to do with the fairness. What sort of message does this send to staff within the company and Farmers ?