The cost of well-paid chief executives
It's the second day of strike action by local authority workers. I'm not sure how their pay dispute will end or whether we are in for a summer of discontent.
But it is already clear that as economic times get tough, the inevitable battles over who takes what pain, heat up.
Now I've had a couple of recent experiences interviewing union leaders about this on the Today programme (most recently, Dave Prentis of Unison yesterday).
I put what I think of as the obvious points about strikes: "we have to avoid wage price spirals"; "if the money isn't there for a pay rise, it isn't there"; "there's no entitlement to an inflation-matching pay rise" etc.
But on each occasion, the answer comes back that chief executives have not shown the same level of restraint, so why should workers?
The issue has come up in tax debates too - the answer to "where will the money come from?" is some variant of "from extra taxes on the chief executives who have seen their pay rise so many times faster than everyone else's".
It doesn't make for a very interesting conversation to accept the point without challenge.
But if you want to offer arguments against, they have to be credible. So how do you do it? Why should the low paid make a sacrifice that the rich don't bear?
As far as I can see, the potential strategies to adopt in that kind of interview are:
a) to accept that the poor should be paid more, and to agree that something should be done about chief executive pay
b) to stop using arguments that appeal to a need for restraint at a difficult time for the nation, and to talk about other reasons for pay restraint
c) to say that the rest of us need to be restrained even if our employers are not.
I think in the context of an interview, the third provides the most realistic basis for an interesting argument with a union leader.
Yesterday, I said to Dave Prentis that if we all tried to have pay rise like chief executives, the country would obviously go bankrupt very fast.
I was right to make that point - we can't all benchmark ourselves against the group getting the biggest pay rise.
But it never sounds very convincing.
It would be nice if chief executives took that into account when setting their pay.
And well done to Mervyn King for foregoing his bonus... if he hadn't, no interesting interview on pay would have ever been possible.