The United Auto Workers Union is on strike against all of the Big Three automakers for the first time in history, and a big reason for that is compensation. The UAW is asking for – at the top end – 40 percent wage increases over four years. Meanwhile, GM and Ford haven’t come up past 20.
Now, the two automakers’ CEOs are being taken to task over their own high salaries and pay increases over the past few years. On CNN Friday morning, GM CEO Mary Barra, was asked if her workers shouldn’t get the same sort of pay increases she has received. For reference, Barra’s salary has reportedly increased 34 percent in the past four years, and she makes nearly $30 million per year.
Barra seemed visibly uncomfortable after the question was asked on CNN, and she pointed to the fact that 92 percent of it is based on GM’s performance, and the company has profit sharing.
“When the company does well, everyone does well,” Barra said. “For the last several years that’s resulted in record profit sharing for our represented employees.”
Barra once again posted to the 20 percent offer GM gave the union as well as healthcare benefits. However, when asked why she deserves a bigger salary increase than the folks who actually make the vehicles GM sells, she deflected like a politician.
Barra wasn’t the only CEO taken to task over how much they make. On ABC News, Ford CEO Jim Farley was asked why he was able to get a 40 percent pay increase since the last UAW contract, but his workers cannot be afforded the same. In case you were wondering, Farley made about $21 million last year. Farley, like Barra, deflected while looking super uncomfortable on camera.
“We are offering an incredible unprecedented increase, but we can’t even get any feedback from the UAW about what they want,” Farley said. The UAW is, of course, asking for a 40 percent pay increase. Farley says that’ll bankrupt Ford if it happens, which it won’t.
Both Farley and Barra have talked about how their salaries are tied to performance and stock, but it’s a little bit disingenuous to say that doesn’t count as money in their pocket. In fact, in a lot of ways it can end up being even more money for them. There are a number of tax advantages to being paid in stock. Basically, if played right, you can pay a lot less than you would on income tax.
Jalopnik has reached out to Ford, General Motors and the UAW for comment, and will update this article when and if we receive a response.