Fairfax exec pay inflames wage wars. While Fairfax Community Newspapers employees consider Fairfax’s miserly pay offer of 2%, former Rural Press (now Fairfax) senior executives responsible for massive cost-cutting across all Fairfax mastheads have themselves been gorging on massive pay rises. The Rural Press merger with Fairfax has lined the pockets of former rank-and-file Rural Press executives to meteoric levels. A comparison of remuneration between 2006 and 2010 for the top four executives outlined in company annual reports  is startling (2006 figures in brackets) :

  • B McCarthy: $2,600,555 ($1,433,407) +$1,167,148
  • B Cassell: $1,181,015 ($621,669)  + $559,346
  • A Browne: $809,746 ($541,057) + $268,689
  • B Lockley: $852,555 ($530,411) + $292,144

Four former Rural Press executives have given themselves a net remuneration increase of $2,287,527 when circulation, readership and advertising revenue have all declined. Journalists told to do more with less and offered paltry, below-inflation pay rises are asking how this indulgence can be justified. The argument that these managers have more responsibility does not stand up to scrutiny as most positions are group roles with other senior managers such as those in charge of Fairfax’s printing plants already doing the work.

As editorial pages were being cut, it appears Rural Press management have not been prepared to make any sacrifices, instead giving themselves vastly increased salaries and benefits. The hypocrisy and double standards is viewed by rank-and-file employees and middle management as scandalous. The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald will start negotiations on a new EBA next year.

Fairfax CEO Bryan McCarthy — himself the beneficiary of more than a $1 million increase in remuneration in the space of four years — can rightfully expect strong resistance to further job shedding and meagre pay increases of the kind that Fairfax have offered to FCN employees recently. The merger of Rural Press with Fairfax has been a good thing for some but not all it appears.

No party mood at SBS. SBS staff members this week received an emailed party invite to celebrate 30 years of multicultural broadcast (or, as many staff note, the lack of multicultural broadcasting in recent years). Some staff are unhappy they won’t be able to attend because of work commitments. Others question how the broadcaster could spend up big on a lavish party after sacking so many sub-titlers and putting other staff on notice to expect imminent redundancies. And eyebrows were raised at bringing former SBS Independent head Glenys Rowe in to produce a retrospective documentary.

Nine newsroom perks up. Looks like a whizz-bang machine dispensing beverages made from Brazilian coffee beans has been introduced to GTV9’s newsroom in a bid to boost staff morale as ratings continue to disappoint. Sure, hazelnut lattes are great, but maybe a beer fridge would be better. Perhaps it’s Miller-time.

Rann backbenchers in a spin. South Australian Premier Mike Rann is spinning himself an embarrassing web over superannuation payments of up to 26% given to his spin doctors. Rann’s chief spin doctor Jill Bottrall was this week defending the indefensible when she bizarrely said — on behalf of Rann — that superannuation benefits were not considered a monetary benefit.

Bottrall was, of course, defending Rann’s chief-of-staff Nick Alexandrides’ hidden extra payments of up to $80,000, allegedly comprising $45,000 in superannuation payments. And on the question of Bottrall’s extra $25,000 not publicly disclosed … the sound of silence. Labor backbenchers are furious that Rann’s senior spinners are being paid much more than they are — almost twice as much in Alexandrides’ case. Watch this super space.

Carnegie Mellon Uni to close? Rumour has it that Carnegie Mellon University will close its doors in August 2011 due to poor local and international student numbers. The Rann government has so far poured $24 million into the failed elite university. Carnegie Mellon currently has 90 students (70 full-time) and is expected to enroll fewer than 20 full-time students before Christmas. It needs 150 full-time students to survive.

Insiders at the troubled uni say that the blame is being laid directly at the feet of the directors of the Adelaide campus. Five staff were recently sacked or left the uni in disgust at the lack of competence shown by the directors. It is believed CMU is winding back its masters degree programs in favour of executive short courses.

Monash makes cuts. A birdie tells me that Monash University proper is expecting a drop in overseas students of 10% next year. They’re cutting budgets accordingly, and offering early retirement to senior staff.

Peter Fray

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