Power chiefs get big pay rises

GARY ADSHEAD and DANIEL EMERSON

Western Power has been forced to defend massive salary and benefits increases to its management team as West Australians battle to cope with 62 per cent rises in their power bills.

The electricity infrastructure utility’s annual report revealed one boss, systems general manager Ken Brown, enjoyed a pay packet and benefits including superannuation of $503,000 this year, up from $335,000 last year.

Enterprise solutions chief Kevin Gaitskell received a combined salary and benefits package of $403,000, up from $307,000 in 2011.

The big jumps in executive pay were put down to a restructure after Energy Minister Peter Collier’s decision to scrap their bonus payments, which included rewards for meeting key performance indicators.

That portion of the executives’ salary packages were known as the “at-risk” components because they were not guaranteed.

“Last year the remuneration structure changed and effectively rolled the 25 per cent ‘at-risk’ component into the base salary,” the annual report said.

Western Power said the figures gave the appearance of large increases.

“All of this means that when you look at the salaries this year they look like they have significantly jumped — but it is because the at-risk component has been included and confirms that in the previous financial year, no incentive payment was made

despite the scheme being in place,” the report said.

The total benefits of another member of the executive, regulation and sustainability manager Phil Southwell, rose from $339,000 to $437,000.

Western Power’s lawyer and company secretary John Pease’s total benefits rose from $285,000 to $373,000.

“In relation to Ken and Phil (the longest serving executive members) they are members of the Government public service defined benefit super scheme,” the statement said. “This means Western Power has to contribute considerably more than the 9 per cent employers contribute these days to industry funds. Most State politicians are on this old scheme too.

“So on the books their increases are larger when compared to those who are not on the scheme.”

In August, Western Power’s new chief executive, Paul Italiano — who has a total salary and benefits package of $426,000 — promised to crack down on lavish spending.

Former chief executive Doug Aberle left this year with a “termination benefit” of $479,000.

A parliamentary committee in January savaged Western Power’s management of its ageing wood power poles, claiming senior executives were “unwilling or unable to make the paradigm shift needed to fix structural and cult-ural problems”.

Shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt said Premier Colin Barnett and Mr Collier had promised for four years to crack down on “obscene” pay rises awarded to State utility executives.

“Each year the State’s utilities continue to increase executive salaries well beyond community expectation,” he said.