Cometa, the Italian supplementary pension fund for the metal industry with assets worth over €13bn, has voted against the remuneration of chief executive officers and in favour of labour rights at annual general meetings (AGMs) recently taking place.

The pension fund has opposed the remuneration paid to the CEO of Siemens which “significantly exceeds industry and market practices”, compared to the average wages of the employees at the German company, it said in a statement.

It has voted against the proposal of Siemens’ supervisory board to elect Martina Merz, the CEO of Thyssenkrupp, as a new independent member, giving as reason the involvement of the company in “serious disputes relating to the protection of workers’ rights”, it added.

At the AGM of food service company Compass Group, Cometa voted against the total remuneration paid to the CEO in the last financial year, considered significantly higher than industry and market practices and equal to over 300 times the average salary at the company, it said.

Cometa has also defied the confirmation of John C. May, the CEO of Deere & Co, the manufacturer of machines for the agricultural and construction industries, recently involved in a series of disputes on labour protection and workers’ rights raising doubts on the labour policy of the firm, it added.

Moreover, the appointment of a CEO as chair of the board is contrary to best practices, leading to the risk of potential conflicts of interest, the pension fund added.

Deere & Co’s May is earning a wage that is 163 times higher than the average salary of the employees at the firm, and management’s remuneration is not linked to the achievement of social, environmental or sustainability goals, it added.

Riccardo Realfonso at Cometa

Riccardo Realfonso at Cometa

Cometa will vote at the AGMs of more than 200 firms this year, including the upcoming AGMs of  Novozymes, Novartis and Johnson Controls, to raise the voice particularly on pay equity, protection of workers’ health and transparency in corporate governance.

Riccardo Realfonso, Cometa’s chair, said: “The voting policy is the most advanced tool that Cometa uses to strengthen its commitment to sustainability. We are convinced that [industry-wide] pension funds can protect the interests of the members not only by managing retirement savings but also by intervening in major company decisions relating to workers’ rights, environment, and transparency in governance.”

Last year, Cometa changed its voting policy to engage on social and environmental topics of the listed companies it owns in Italy and Europe, based on the principles of the national collective bargaining agreement – Contratto Collettivo Nazionale di Lavoro (CCNL) – applying to the metalworker sector in Italy.

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