In 2016, CEOs at Germany’s biggest companies earned on average 93 times as much as regular employees, according to an analysis published by business newspaper Handelsblatt on Tuesday.
Bernd Scheifele, CEO of HeidelbergCement, was the boss with the most unequal relationship to his workers. Earning €8.4 million a year, Scheifele pocketed 190 times the average salary at the company, which stood at €44,300.
But the cement chief was far from the highest earner among the 30 leading companies on the DAX stock exchange. That prize went to Bill McDermott, CEO of software developer SAP, who raked in €14.3 million last year.
Nonetheless, due to the fact that employees at SAP earn well – on average €121,500 – the New York-born businessman “only” earned 118 times the wage of his average employee.
One salary discrepancy which is likely to stick in the craw of the average worker is that of Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen since the dieselgate scandal erupted in 2015. Müller earned €10.1 million in 2016 – 170 times the average salary at the company, and the second highest discrepancy behind Scheifele.
The car manufacturer announced plans to axe 30,000 employees in 2016 in an attempt to restructure after it was caught deceiving US regulators on the nitrogen oxide emissions of its diesel engines.
In February VW pledged to cap its CEO's salary below €10 million.
At the opposite end of the list is the boss of another tarnished German brand.
Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan did not take a bonus payment to his salary of €4.7 million in 2016 and thereby earned 39 times the average income at the financial giant.
Deutsche Bank is engaged in a long struggle to free itself from thousands of legal cases worldwide relating to its past conduct, and in December agreed a $7.2-billion deal with the US Department of Justice relating to mortgage-backed securities trading in the run-up to the financial crisis.
At the same time, the bank is attempting a massive restructuring that will see it shift focus from global financial markets to traditional banking for businesses and households in Germany.
Trade unions have reacted angrily to the news that CEOs are still earning so much in relation to workers.
A joint statement published last week by employee committees from Siemens, BMW, Volkswagen, Daimlaer and other major firms said that “the relationship between employer and employee is out of kilter.”
The statement pointed out that CEO salaries had risen from an average of €5 million to €6.4 million in a decade, despite one of the biggest financial crises in decades.
Jörg Hofmann, head of the IG Metall union, told Handelsblatt that “practical regulations are urgently needed.”
Experience shows that “effective upper limits on salaries are only enforced when employee committees have a strong voice,” he added.
CEO salaries are likely to become a theme of September's national election.
The Social Democrats (SPD) are calling for a legal ratio of employer to employee salaries to be agreed upon with employer federations and unions.