Leitner calls for CEO pay cut

A leading Social Democrat (SPÖ) has suggested business bosses should not earn more than the president.

Josef Leitner, who heads the SPÖ’s branch in the province of Upper Austria, said today (Thurs) CEOs of companies in which the state holds stakes could have their wages cut owing to the volatile economic climate. The left-winger argued his measure would help his party in arguing why Austria supports debt-ridden European Union (EU) and Eurozone member Greece.

Leitner told the Kurier newspaper: “Many people are angered, assuming we saved banks engaged in Greece while making cuts at home. ‘You took our money away,’ some of them say.”

Leitner claimed the right-wing Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) strong position in new polls was not surprising. He hit out at the coalition of SPÖ and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) for agreeing on a package of measures affecting families and students in the state budget for 2011. The Lower Austrian politician called on the government to take back some of the decisions but press on with reforming the state’s bureaucracy and administration instead. Up to three billion Euros could be saved if steps to make the state work more efficiently were taken, according to Leitner. Some economists named the same amount in this regard recently.

Speaking about his vision to slash business chiefs’ earnings, Leitner explained heads of firms close to the state should not earn more than Federal President Heinz Fischer. The former SPÖ MP receives nearly 24,000 Euros before tax a month.

Asked how the federal SPÖ could stay ahead of the FPÖ, he appealed on introducing a law prohibiting speculation with public funds. Leitner also claimed the country’s political leaders should try harder to explain the aid for Greece in simple words than delivering complex calculations.

SPÖ Vienna boss Michael Häupl made similar suggestions a few weeks ago. The mayor of the capital also called on the SPÖ-ÖVP administration to speak out more clearly about its achievements in a bid to diminish the popularity of the FPÖ. Häupl praised the government for the way it acted during the economic crisis. He called on fellow SPÖ Vienna party members to show more engagement in exposing the “lies” of FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

Strache revealed he would order a stop of transactions to Greece if he came to power in the next election. A federal ballot is scheduled for 2013. The right-winger also hinted being in favour of abandoning the Euro in favour of Austria’s former currency, the Schilling.

His party has been riding on a high in polls, while the ÖVP slumped. The SPÖ is seen neck and neck with the FPÖ at around 27 to 30 per cent. The Greens failed to take advantage of the growing scepticism against nuclear technology, according to studies. Their share ranges around 12 per cent.

Strache claimed the government was “dispossessing” Austrians. His party controversially presented a poster campaign showing a tanned man lying in a hammock made of cloth of the flag of Greece. The placard’s slogan said: “Our money for our people!”

Analysts emphasised that the FPÖ focused on attacking the SPÖ and the ÖVP while failing to present a reasonable economic programme itself. Strache dismissed this point of view. He called on the government to do more for hardworking Austrians and young families. The Viennese politician – who took the helm of the FPÖ in 2005 – claimed several high-profile businesspeople and economic experts were ready to work as independent experts for his party if it became part of a coalition after the next vote. Strache refused to reveal any names, claiming their reputation would be damaged if he did so because of the “hostile climate” against his party created by political opponents and the press.

Commentators are at odds over whether the SPÖ or the ÖVP would cooperate with the FPÖ after the next federal election. While many SPÖ officials have ruled out such an option, influential ÖVP members have refused to comment, claiming the issue is of no importance at the moment. The party’s Integration Councillor Sebastian Kurz has become the latest ÖVP MP to argue he was not in favour of excluding any political rivals regarding potential future partnerships.

A coalition between the ÖVP and the FPÖ incited harsh reactions by political leaders and media around the world and street demonstrations attended by tens of thousands in Vienna and other Austrian cities in 2000.