The banking industry is protesting that it made contracts with the employees that received bonuses stating that they would be given the bonuses. Last time I checked, a bonus was “something given or paid in addition to what is usual or expected.” So how could a bonus be contractual? I always thought that bonuses were paid out for performance, and since the banking industry obviously did not perform well (or at all), then why should anyone receive bonuses?
My daughter works in the banking industry and used to get bonuses, until her bosses decided that they couldn’t afford to give them right now. She works for a bank that received federal funds, but it isn’t one of the giants like AIG. I don’t know if any of her higher-ups are still getting their bonuses, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are. Her bonuses were based on how many calls she made per month, which I can see. The bonuses were directly tied to work that can be quantified.
I have a problem with bosses getting bonuses anyway. All too often they get them based on someone else’s performance and those who did the work receive no bonuses at all. (It was that way when I worked for the U.S. Postal service in the ’80s and ’90s.) It could be argued that the bosses were responsible for getting good work out of their employees, but all too often what they do has nothing to do with the results. In fact, in my view, at least half the time (and I’m being generous here) the bosses made it harder for the workers to do a good job.
I’ve never been a boss; perhaps if I had, I would be singing a different tune. But I like to think that I would feel guilty receiving bonuses when those I supervised–who did the actual work–received nothing.
Another thing that bothers me about this whole “contractual” argument is that no one raises a stink when workers are asked to give up pay or hours or benefits because of tough economic times. This happens even when the workers’ unions had contracts with the employers that ensured them so much pay, hours and certain benefits. But it is seen as okay to “bust” the union or the workers–they’re making too much anyway, right?