08/23/2013 02:20 EDT | Updated 10/23/2013 05:12 EDT

BC Ferries says executive bonuses justified

After announcing pay bonuses and perks for its top executives last week, BC Ferries says it is aware of concerns over rising fares and is trying to run as efficiently as possible.

- Read more about the fare increases

BC Ferries board chairman Donald Hayes made his comments at the corporation's annual general meeting Friday morning.

Earlier this month, the corporation revealed its chief executive officer Michael Corrigan made $563,000 after bonuses and a salary boost of eight per cent.

Executive vice-president Glen Schwartz saw his "annual incentive" pay increase to $127,008, up $64,298. And Robert Clark, executive vice-president and chief financial officer, saw his bonus jump to $133,711, up $73,359.

Today, Hayes justified Corrigan's wage hike, saying the eight per cent jump came only after his promotion from CFO to CEO.

Hayes also said executive bonuses are justified and serve the corporation well, announcing $26 million in savings and an increase of $1 million in first quarter earnings compared to last year.

Meanwhile, the B.C. NDP want to change the Coastal Ferry Act in order to end pay increases for ferry executives.

"A simple change to the Coastal Ferry Act would stop these unacceptable annual compensation increases for top ferry executives that have become a tradition in B.C., even as ferry passengers are hit with rising fares and service cuts" said B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix.

The BC Ferries annual general meeting is being held at the Fletcher Challenge Canada Theatre at 515 W. Hastings St. in Vancouver.