tip off

If we need to cut wages, let’s look at the fat cats

Crikey readers talk South Australia’s looming election and where to start with cutting wages.

Corrections

Crikey says: Re. “Glenn Dyer’s TV ratings“ (yesterday). We said Leigh Sales returned to the ABC 7.30 desk last week — as she’s since pointed out, she’s been fronting the program for most of the summer ahead of her maternity leave break from next week. Sorry, Leigh!

Tips and rumours. Re. “Tips and Rumours” (yesterday). Tips yesterday claimed “it sounds like” Canberra Times reporter Noel Towell is leaving the paper. It doesn’t sound like that at all, in the end. Towell is relocating to Melbourne but will stay with The Canberra Times. We wish Towell well with his move and apologise for exaggerating his demise.

SA story a beat-up

Geoffrey Heard writes: Re “Labor ‘fatally wounded’ ahead of SA election in Farrell fracas” (Friday). In saying Jay Weatherill “threatened to resign”, David Washington is guilty of a beat-up. This is quite clear when he goes on to say that Weatherill — in answer to a question — said “I would have to reflect on that (resignation), of course”. That is not a threat to resign.

That sort of slide in terms casts doubt on the rest of the story, which is replete with hyperbole — “damaged irreversibly”, “in despair”, “destroyed state Labor”, “the most brand-damaging episode in the party’s history”, etc. Where is the evidence?

Another interpretation of the situation might be positive: that the SA Labor Party has potentially gained new strength from the unseating of a nasty influence within the party and that Weatherill has protected his government by preventing the preselection of someone who really could have introduced instability and been seen by the electorate to be on the nose. As for it being impossible to comprehend how “Labor could do this to itself” — let’s get reasonable. “Labor” did not do it to itself; a bunch of egotistical, power-hungry sociopaths (and maybe psychopaths) with no interest in the good of the party and more broadly, of the community, did it.

They do it on both sides of politics — then get elected! During his failed negotiations to win government by recruiting the independents, Tony Abbott said he would do anything to gain power. That should have told any reasonable person that the man was a menace with no interests in the good of the nation or the body politic. Yet people voted him in.

How much did hysterical reporting like Washington’s contribute to that?

Wages of fear mongering

David Edmunds writes: Re. “The real wage cuts you have when you’re not cutting wages” (yesterday). Bernard Keane and Glen Dyer mention, but do not follow through on, the simple class warfare implicit in the current government stance on workers’ wages.

If, and it is a big if, workers wages are too high, then presumably that applies to all workers wages, particularly the increasing distance between the income of senior employees and directors in public companies and their workers.

It has been pointed out in Crikey before that there is no correlation between the income of these people and the performance of the companies they lead. If the leaders of public companies are convinced that they have skills that justify, for example, income of more than 100 times that of the workshop floor employees, then they should go out on their own and start a private firm. Otherwise, they should be subjected to the discipline they are advocating for other employees of the company.

As the system stands, any salary restraint by workers in a public company is viewed as a cost-cutting win by the managers, who are then rewarded by an increase in their income.

Should these workers be represented by a union to redress the power imbalance, this is viewed as a travesty, although Australia’s most powerful and effective unions, those of the doctors, lawyers and accountants are exempt from this criticism.

As a shareholder in a number of public companies I have no influence on the income of the people who in theory I employ. I can vote at an AGM on the reward recommended for directors and senior workers, but my vote will be swamped by that of institutional shareholders who do not necessarily vote in accordance with the views of their shareholders. They vote as part of the club.

So when the peak business groups recommend that all workers, including those in management, take effective pay cuts in concert with their workers we will know that there is a serious problem that we need to address collectively. Until this happens, we know that the current debate is just another old-fashioned attempt to transfer the wealth of our society from those with little power to those with a lot, and we should treat the debate with the contempt it deserves.

2
  • 1
    Mick Handcock
    Posted Wednesday, 5 February 2014 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    David Edmunds - a well thought and terrific response to a seemingly continuous cycle - that of bash the salaried man for trying to negotiate a “living wage” whilst simultaneously pocketing unspeakable amounts of cash and rewards for little or no result.

    For sure if the CEO and top managers perform to a high expectation and produce results for the share holders they deserve fair remuneration, with bonuses even.

    But the workers deserve a living wage -= call it corporate social responsibility if you must but just be fair. That is all.

  • 2
    CML
    Posted Wednesday, 5 February 2014 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    Bravo! David Edmunds. Couldn’t have put it better myself!!

    And Geoffrey Heard - as someone who lives in SA, I applaud your comments. Absolutely correct!

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