Imagine this: a ship’s captain serves the ship’s owners well for a number of years. The crew are motivated, well paid, well fed and loyal. The seas are calm and friendly and the winds are favourable. Everything the good captain does is for the benefit of the crew and the ship’s owners.

However, times change and new demands from the owners and a shift in weather patterns mean that the captain decides it is necessary to chart a new course. He takes advice from some experienced mariners. Expensive advice for which the owners pay handsomely, and on this and his own opinion, he turns the ship around. All seems to go well at first and magically the ship grows in size and the number of crew increases. The owners see their investment grow too. Unfortunately, the captain has not calculated on the deteriorating weather, nor has he seen the rocks ahead.

Before long this new course ends in disaster and the ship is driven onto the rocks. Nor is the captain alone; within weeks a veritable armada of similar ships are driven onto the same rocks. All the owners look for who is responsible. The experienced advisors, whose expensive recommendations were mainly responsible, say that their advice is never foolproof and that such disasters can happen. Moreover their terms and conditions exclude them from any liability.

More remarkably, the captain is able to point to his employment contract, which allows him to step to the safety of dry land. He is even paid millions for his failure and goes off to live in the sun, with the possibility that he may take up a new job as a captain of another ship or even become an advisor to other captains himself. Meanwhile, below decks the crew are kept in the dark. In a state of near panic, fearing for their lives, some try to pump out the water coming in the gaping holes made by the rocks. Their comfortable lives, like their ship, have been wrecked. Others are thrown overboard to sink or swim in the rough sea.

The owners can only wring their hands as they see their investment vanishing before their eyes, unable to understand that it was pressure from them that caused their captain to take the risks in the first place. For some of the owners this was all the money they had. Others, who are large enterprises, simply pass their loss on to their customers with a shrug and deny all responsibility.

A fairy story? If only it were! Throughout our commercial world this story is being repeated again and again every day as big business bows to the pressures of ‘shareholder value’. In a bid to maximise short-term profits for shareholders, companies take the advice of experts, change direction, get caught in unfavourable economic winds, shed staff, post losses and sail perilously close to the rocks of economic disaster.

Far from getting value, more and more shareholders are getting next to nothing. While the employees are left holding the pieces – they either jump ship to find work elsewhere, or work on in the hope a new captain and fairer winds will bring back the happier times.

The only winners out of the whole sad story are the captains of industry and their advisors – ironically, the very ones who actually caused the shipwreck. Spitting in the face of tradition, not to say morality, the captains don’t go down with their ship, but are the first to be rescued. They are the ones whose remuneration package nets in one year more than an average worker can hope to earn in a lifetime. They are the ones who are paid for five-year contracts, despite the ship being wrecked a year or two into their captaincy. The old argument that such high salaries have to be paid to industries’ leaders, or the good heads will be hunted away, is proved in practice to be nonsense.

History has shown us that wherever there is a gross injustice, sooner or later retribution comes. Maybe by solid, silent protest the wall comes down; maybe by the blood and tears of revolution, an inequality is eventually righted. Today we are living through a revolution. We witness the bastions of our capitalist society, the bluest of blue chips, banks, financial institutions, national airlines - all suddenly seem to be sailing in dangerously shallow water, driven by the winds of uncertainty and the pressure to increase performance. In the boardrooms, the highly-paid captains listen to their advisors safe in the knowledge that they have a contract that is better than any lifeboat.

My question is how long before we hear the murmuring of one more nautical reference coming from down in the engine rooms of industry – that of mutiny?