Fonterra is defending hiking its chief executive's pay by about $750,000 even though it is getting rid of at least 750 employees and dairy farmers are struggling with low milk prices.
The dairy giant has just announced a $506 million profit but it has also just revealed chief executive Theo Spierings's salary had jumped almost 18 percent to $4.9 million.
It said the increase included performance incentive payments from last year when Fonterra delivered farmers a record payout.
Phil Hulse, who is a dairy farmer and Whangarei district councillor, said the pay rise was not going down well.
"It virtually shows a disrespect for the grassroots people who are milking cows in all weather and are trying to scratch out a living at the moment."
He said Fonterra had too many middle managers on big salaries and it was draining the whole income stream.
Neither Mr Spierings nor Fonterra's chairman John Wilson would comment on the matter.
Instead the cooperative has given Radio New Zealand News a statement saying the chief executive's pay included performance incentive payments from last year.
It said the size of his salary was to be expected considering Fonterra was the country's largest and only truly global company.