Jun 13, 2013

ABC wage stoush: staff fact-check management ‘propaganda’

Aunty has finally found a presenter for its new fact-checking unit, but in the meantime staff are busy doing some fact-checking of their own -- about their boss' wage offer.

Matthew Knott

Former Crikey media reporter

The ABC has finally announced a presenter for its new fact-checking unit: John Barron, who hosts Planet America on ABC News 24 and regularly fills in to present The Drum. He'll be working alongside editor Russell Skelton, the former Fairfax journalist whose opinionated tweeting was dissected by Media Watch earlier this week. Although the unit isn't up and running yet, ABC staff have been busy fact-checking contentious claims this week. But it's the truthfulness of Aunty's management -- rather than politicians -- under the microscope. Last month the ABC put its long-awaited wage offer, which will apply to around 4000 staff, on the table:  a 2% per annum increase over three years, with any improvements on that funded from cuts to meal allowances and shift loadings. The unions representing ABC workers speedily rejected it, saying it amounted to a real wages cut. The ABC tried to calm the horses by sending out an email to staff clarifying that the 2% figure was an initial offer and might be improved. The email also included a raft of detail about ABC pay and conditions, including the eye-catching claim that average weekly earnings for Aunty staffers have grown by 29% since 2006 -- more than any sector other than mining.

The horses most definitely were not calmed. A stopwork meeting was held at the ABC's Ultimo headquarters yesterday, with around 200 staff in attendance. The star turn was ABC economics correspondent Stephen Long, who had been asked to run a ruler over management's figures by the the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance's ABC house committee.  His verdict: mostly false. Crikey has independently obtained a copy of Long's presentation, titled "Management's Misleading Maths".

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