British newspapers are praising a retail boss for donating his entire cash bonus to employees. Lord Simon Wolfson, conservative peer of the realm and CEO of Next, the U.K.'s biggest department store chain, waived $3.6 million, which 19,400 workers will share as a cash bonus.
No CEO of a public company in the U.S. or the U.K. was found to have made such a gesture in recent years, according to ABC News. The closest they found was Lou Anna Simon, president of Michigan State University, who last year gave her $100,000 annual retention bonus back to MSU.
Some CEOs have donated bonuses to charity, including Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. But in the U.S., no donated bonuses were ever given to public company employees. According to Alistair Mackinnon-Munson, a spokesperson for Next, Wolfson is the first to do so in the U.K.
"It's the first time that any chief executive has ever done anything like this," he confirmed. "All our staff of 19,400 will share in it as a cash bonus. It works out to about 1 percent of their basic salary."
The Telegraph reports that Wolfson sent an email to staff, saying that a near-doubling of the company’s share price meant the award has “now become more valuable than I could possibly have expected."
Wolfson said the bonus was a “gesture of thanks and appreciation from the company for the hard work and commitment you have given to Next over the past three years and through some very tough times."
Public reaction in the U.K. has been mostly positive, but the U.S. Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union's president, Stuart Appelbaum told ABC News that that people shouldn't have to rely on bosses' charity at bonus time.
"Working people," says Appelbaum, "do not want charity. They need guaranteed wages and benefits -- the kind that come with a union contract. They shouldn't be forced to hope that their employer will have a momentary impulse -- a munificent impulse -- to share his massive wealth."