The British government is to come forward with proposals next month to tackle excessive pay packets for executives whose companies are failing, the deputy prime minister said on Sunday.
Nick Clegg said that austerity in the public sector as Britain tries to bring down its budget deficit had to be matched with a crackdown on "irresponsible and unjustifiable" pay in the private sector.
His comments came after a week which saw a major public sector strike over government plans to weaken their pension rights. Unions claimed two million workers downed tools, but the government estimate was around half that.
"We need to make sure that people in the public sector do not feel that they are doing all the heavy lifting," Clegg told BBC television.
"The revelation that top executives of some of our top companies were receiving up to 50 percent pay increases, even though their companies weren't doing any better, was a real slap on the face for millions of people in this country who are struggling to make ends meet.
"We now need to call time on excessive and irresponsible behaviour in the private sector.
"We now need to get tough on irresponsible and unjustifiable behaviour of top remuneration of executives.
"What I abhor is people getting paid bucket-loads of cash in difficult times for failure."
He said proposals would be brought foward next month, which could include moves to "break open this closed shop of remuneration committees which seems to be too often an old boys' network."
Rank-and-file employees could be put on such bodies, and companies could be forced to publish pay ratios between junior and senior staff.
"Shareholders should be given a proper say. They own the companies after all," he added.