PM Sets Up Panel to Rule on Capping Salaries of Top Earners

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation yesterday voted to establish a special panel of ministers to discuss legislation aimed at reducing wage gaps in the country.

The committee made this decision instead of holding a scheduled discussion on the new bill that would cap the wages of senior earners, which was proposed by MKs Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) and Haim Katz (Likud).

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman was appointed to chair the panel, whose members will be Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor). The head of the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister's Office, Eugene Kandel, will also participate in this body.

Neeman, who proposed the establishment of the panel, obtained Yachimovich's and Katz's agreement for the move. Improvement of Government Services Minister Michael Eitan (Likud) was the only one who abstained in the vote.

The ministerial committee proposed the panel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded, during a meeting of Likud ministers yesterday morning, that the vote by the ministerial committee be postponed. Sources in the Knesset said Netanyahu made his demand after realizing that Yachimovich's and Katz's bill, which was to have been voted on yesterday afternoon, would be approved by a majority.

Netanyahu decided to avoid the embarrassment of members of Knesset dictating to the cabinet policy on a wage cap by suggesting that the vote be postponed until a government-sponsored bill could be formulated.

According to the agreement reached by the ministerial committee, the panel will complete its deliberations with two months. Yachimovich and Katz will be invited to its first meeting to present their legislation and explain the reasoning behind it. The two lawmakers also pledged not to raise their proposal for discussion again in the next 60 days. If they are not satisfied with the panel's recommendations, they will be permitted to propose the bill again.

In their bill, Yachimovich and Katz stipulated that the wages of a CEO in a public corporation can not be more than 50 times greater than the lowest-earning person in that company - except if the industry, trade and employment minister authorizes it. The legislation also states that if the employer pays an executive an amount that is more than 50 times the lowest salary as a business expense, the excess sum cannot be deducted as such.

"We congratulate the prime minister on acting for the first time to cap the excessive wages of senior earners, but we will not allow the issue to melt away. The bill will pass by the large majority it has already garnered if a real, governmental solution is not found," Yachimovich and Katz said.