Anglo American Platinum CEO Chris Griffith. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Anglo American Platinum CEO Chris Griffith. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

ANGLO American Platinum (Amplats) CEO Chris Griffith has come out swinging against criticism of executive and management bonus-share schemes, saying the debate should be about affordable wages and job creation rather than executive pay.

Mr Griffith, his 11 executives and top management have been awarded R25.3m in a bonus-share scheme that will pay out in three years as part of a skills-retention scheme. A further R51.8m would be awarded to the team over the same period if a number of performance criteria were met.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), on a wage strike at Amplats, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, said recently the top management of those companies was earning 209 times what the lowest-paid workers were paid.

"Over and above their unusually obscene salaries, top management get paid out in share options and share dividends that come to millions of rands," it said.

Mr Griffith said last week the debate should be about an affordable wage to employ more South Africans rather than comparing salaries of educated, skilled executives with workers with few or no skills and limited education.

"There’s a salary number for a certain skill that will enable employment and enable people to have a living wage and employment, and for business to prosper," he said. "Ultimately, all those ranges depend on skill, education and supply and demand. In South Africa, we have 35% unemployment. Do we want higher unemployment so fewer people can be paid more?

"If this debate is around the comparison of CEO pay and somebody else, then we’re completely missing the point. There is a greater supply of lower-skilled people," he said. "What the unions are doing is putting more people out on the street."

The Congress of South African Trade Unions said last week Amplats’ scheme "exposed outrageous levels of inequality in South Africa".

Amcu is demanding the basic monthly entry-level wage for underground workers be raised to R12,500 from R5,700.

Frans Baleni, general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, said on Tuesday the gap between the workforce and executives was simply too large.

Workers felt resentful when highly paid CEOs made bad business decisions that resulted in retrenchments, he said.

"It’s important that workers be paid a decent wage for decent work. That’s a fundamental issue. You don’t want poor workers who can’t afford to live.

"We need a large number of people to be absorbed in employment. If you look at the level of executives, there’s no tightening of belts in earnings. Only one side has to always do that," he said.

According to the 2013 Amplats annual report, Mr Griffith was paid a total R17.6m, of which R6.7m was a basic salary. Amplats paid wages of R12.5bn that year.

"Am I getting paid on a fair basis for what I’m having to deal with in this company? Must I run this company and deal with all this nonsense for nothing? I’m at work. I’m not on strike. I’m not demanding to be paid what I’m not worth," Mr Griffith said.

* The headline of this story was amended, the original headline "Pay gap is fair, says Griffith", did not reflect the substance of the report.