The great wage debate

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By Strategic Partner Tom O’Meara

In June, the Australian Football League agreed to a six-year pay deal for players worth $1.84 billion over six years and the average payment jumped from $309,000 to $371,000.

An extension of the overall agreement is the unbelievable media coverage of Richmond’s Dustin Martin. He ended the drama last week by signing a seven year, $8 million contract with his current team, Richmond and rejecting a $10 million deal with North Melbourne. Keep in mind, by the end of this six-year pay deal, million-dollar players will be a dime a dozen and icons will be fetching around the $3.5 million a year mark.

Earlier this month, the Australian Cricket Council agreed to a $500 million pay deal over five years with national retainers increasing from $270,000 to $313,000, with an average of $94,000 for state players. Australian Captain Steve Smith’s retainer is $2 million with $1 million plus for a handful other top players. National women players’ retainers jumped from just $50,000 to $300,000 for the top echelon.

The challenge for the test team now is to win back the support following the divisive strike which left a sour taste in the mouth of Australian and overseas cricket fans. Winning would help.

The CEOs of Australia’s four big banks are also under payment pressure with some recent changes. The difference here is payments are under pressure to reduce, not increase.

The salaries for all four CEOs are around $2.2 million but their incentives and bonuses are the reason why the home loaners and business borrowers believe the banks are on the nose.

Last year ANZ’s Shayne Elliot took home $5.07 million despite a base salary of $2 million, Westpac’s Brian Hartzer, $6.7 million ($2.8 million salary), NAB’s Andrew Thorburn, $5.07 million ($2 million salary) and CBA’s, Ian Narev topping the scale with $12.3 million ($2.65 million salary).

Already there has been reductions, particularly Ian Narev who has been forced to pay back some $2 million plus following the revelations of alleged money laundering through the bank system.

Private enterprise CEOs have been invisible compared to the bankers during recent company annual meetings with Louis Gries of James Hardie collecting $21 million; Don Meij of Dominos Pizza also $21 million, Chris Rex of Ramsay Health Care, $18 million and Alan Joyce, Qantas, $14 million. Louis Gries was criticised in 2015 for his $15 million payment but obviously that was ignored considering his $6 million increase since then.

The comparisons of the Australian average wage of $80,000 are certainly interesting when you consider Louis Gries’ remittance is 262 times as large.

A colleague and mentor of mine from the late 1960’s, the late John B Knight, was a great story teller and wonderful academic brain, but if you wanted to inflame a discussion just mention the money thrown at film stars.

“A million dollars for reading words, or sometimes having to memorise a few sentences, mime songs or fake facial looks and you get a million dollars? Why should they earn hundreds of thousands of dollars and now even a million dollars for being a dork.”

Yes, the late John B. Knight carried a great disdain for the millions paid to actors so heaven knows the reaction today. John was a former Political Editor for The Examiner in Hobart before investing in a PR company and later a senior adviser to Hydro commissioners Sir Allan Knight (no relation) and Russell Ashton.

He’d be horrified to see the earnings of today’s film stars such as Tom Cruise, $850 million and George Clooney, $650 million.  Australia’s Mel Gibson is sixth on the list with $425 million, Hugh Jackman $100 million and Chris Hemsworth, $71 million.

But if you really want your eyes to water then the best, or the worst, is still to come.

Until last Sunday, just two world sport icons had reached life time earnings of $1billion-basketball great, Michael Jordan with $1.7 billion and golf champion, Tiger woods, $1.65 billion.

The duo became a trio after Floyd Mayweather’s $300 million plus purse for a TKO victory over Irishman Conor McGregor was watched by millions. Actual figures may never be known as the fight was expected to be the most pirated event in history, however Mayweather’s billionaire status undoubtedly remains. By the way, Floyd’s earnings equate to about $10.55 million a minute.

Holding 15 world titles in five weight classes, Mayweather was raised in abject poverty by a dysfunctional family. Don’t expect any complaints about his billionaire status!

Unfortunately, there is a lack of gender balance in all sectors but certainly ‘times are a changing’. Tennis now has equal prize money, although it took three decades for all countries to agree, which is why Serena Williams has pocketed $84 million, but it’s certainly the backbone for equality.

Tom O’Meara is the former GM of the Canberra Times, Ballarat Courier and CEO of The Examiner, Launceston

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