Air Canada shareholders OK CEO compensation

Air Canada shareholders voiced their opinion today on the compensation the airline's executives take home.
The compensation package for Air Canada's CEO Calin Rovinescu fell 12 per cent last year. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Air Canada shareholders have overwhelmingly approved a new policy on executive compensation.   

The largely symbolic resolution passed with 91.85 per cent approval. The only opposition was from Air Canada Pilots Association president Paul Strachan.   

He says giving double-digit compensation increases to top executives while extolling austerity to employees is hypocritical.   

Air Canada and two of its main unions — representing pilots and some ground crew — have been unable to negotiate a contract. Under back-to-work legislation passed by the federal government, their disputes will be resolved by arbitration.   

Pay for Air Canada's CEO fell 12 per cent last year but payouts of the airline's other four highest-pad top executives soared even though continued losses drove the airline's share price down more than 70 per cent.   

The board had approved the so-called "say on pay" policy in April.   

The shareholders vote isn't binding on Air Canada's directors but the company says its board will take it into account when establishing executive compensation.   

Air Canada chief executive Calin Rovinescu earned $4 million in 2011, down from $4.55 million a year earlier, but higher than the $2.6 million during his first nine months on the job in 2009, according to a proxy circular.   

Chief financial officer Michael Rousseau, chief operating officer Duncan Dee, chief commercial officer Benjamin Smith and senior vice-president of operations David Legge each saw their compensation increase by between 18 per cent to nearly 47 per cent.   

Base salaries remained mostly steady but each executive saw large gains in share and options-based awards while non-equity incentives fell.   

Rousseau's compensation grew to $1.68 million, Dee's was $1.62 million, Smith made $1.37 million and Legge's was up to $1.15 million.   

Rovinescu's compensation doesn't include the $5 million retention bonus awarded in March, which will show up on next year's compensation. However, 280,000 options granted to him over the past two years were cancelled at his request.   

The Montreal-based airline lost $249 million or 92 cents per share last year despite a 7.7 per cent increase in revenues to $11.6 billion.