Proximus Chairman wants pay ceiling for part-state-owned companies to be relaxed.

The Chairman of the part-state-owned telecom company Proximus has said in a television interview that the pay ceiling imposed on the salaries of the CEOs of companies in which the Belgian state has a stake should be relaxed. As things stand the woman or man that will take on the top job at Proximus when the company’s current CEO Dominique Leroy leaves on 1 December will not be allowed to earn any more than 650,000 euro/annum.    

On Thursday Ms Leroy announced that after almost 6 years at the helm, she was leaving Proximus to become CEO of the Dutch telecom firm KPN. They is no pay ceiling in The Netherlands and it is quite likely that she will earn (considerably) more in her new post. The existence of the pay ceiling raises the question of whether companies that are partially state-owned such as Proximus and Bpost are not at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to recruiting top quality CEOs.

Like Proximus Bpost is also currently looking for a new boss to succeed Koen Van Gerven. If Stefaan De Clerck has his way the pay ceiling should at least be raised. He told the VRT’s topical discussion programme ‘De zevende dag’ "Everyone knows that this is a thorny issue. Salaries elsewhere are much higher. You start the search for a new CEO with a handicap”, Mr De Clerck said.

The Chairman of Proximus added that the responsibility carried by the company’s board and its independence has grown under the current Minister responsible for publically-owned companies Alexander De Croo (Flemish liberal). Proximus’ board can decide to raise the pay ceiling. However, it can only do so in consultation with the government.

“Of course such a decision is best taken in close contact with your main shareholder”, Mr De Clerck said.

The Belgian state currently holds 53% of the shares in Proximus. Mr De Clerck added that as far as he is concerned Dominique Leroy can stay at Proximus until her term as CEO expires on 1 December and complete the negotiation with the trade unions on the company’s restructuring plans.

The unions have called for her to leave the company straight away as her new job is with a competitor. However, Mr De Clerck believes that it is important that she remains to complete the work that she has started.