Bombardier unable to shake off public anger over pay to executives

Bombardier unable to shake off public anger over pay to executives

People throw paper airplanes during a demonstration outside Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard’s office in Montreal, Sunday, April 9, 2017, to protest recent pay hikes and bonuses to Bombardier’s top executives. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — Bombardier appears unable to shake off public anger over hefty pay packages to its senior executives.

Dozens of angry protesters launched paper airplanes in front of Premier Philippe Couillard’s Montreal offices on Sunday to protest how the executives are compensated.

Earlier, many of them waved signs and shouted slogans such as “too much is too much!” during a march that began in front of the company’s headquarters.

Many of the protesters said they wanted the Quebec government to impose conditions on companies that receive public money so jobs are protected and executive bonuses are limited.

“It’s our money, and the government is laughing at us,” said one protester, Pierre Brazeau. “If we don’t come out in the streets, they’ll continue to exploit us like they’re doing now.”

Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) has faced a storm of public criticism ever since it circulated documents showing six executives were in line for a roughly 50 per cent increase in compensation last year.

The increases came despite the fact the company recently received a $372.5 million loan from the federal government, and US$1 billion from the Quebec government.

Chief executive Alain Bellemare has since asked the company’s board of directors to delay payment of more than half of last year’s total planned compensation for six executives, including himself, to 2020, provided the company meets certain objectives.

Executive chairman Pierre Beaudoin also asked the board to cut his 2016 compensation by US$1.4 million to bring it in line with what he received the previous year.

Bombardier has said it will formally inform shareholders on Monday about changes to the compensation for several of its top executives when it files a new proxy circular with the securities regulator.

Protesters and opposition politicians, however, say the company’s reversal doesn’t go far enough.

One protester, who gave her name only as Carole, said she hoped the demonstration would convince the company to repeal the pay hikes altogether.

“I’m hoping it will make a difference,” she said. “But I know that if we don’t do anything, nothing will change.”

Parti Quebecois legislature member Alain Therrien pointed out it was the second straight weekend of protests outside Bombardier’s headquarters.

“We can see this isn’t solved, even if Mr. Couillard would like it to be,” he said at the protest.

Quebec’s governing Liberal party used its majority to block several opposition motions calling on the government to take action last week, with Couillard arguing that government interference would send a bad signal to businesses.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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