Sunday, April 6, 2014

Newmania: Show Them the Money

Nobody outside the world of politics has ever been told that they have to accept a colossal pay rise. It doesn’t happen. There are always too many competing priorities and too little cash. People tend to land at the end of the queue, regardless of the employee friendly “value statements” that adorn corporate office walls.

I know a bit about substantial pay rises. Last year, I received one, but let me explain what happened before the pay rise was awarded.

  • ·         Over a period of years I took on more and more responsibility.
  • ·         I moved well outside my comfort zone.
  • ·         I volunteered to take on more challenging projects.
  • ·         I taught myself to use three new software programmes and coached others.
  • ·         Every year for three years, I requested a formal salary review.
  • ·         Every year for three years I provided updated information on average salaries for people doing similar jobs to mine.
  • ·         I requested the opportunity to study for a diploma in my chosen field.
  • ·         I undertook that study and gained significant expertise, new tools and professional confidence.
  • ·         Finally, I withdrew my labour for a few days.

When my managers were able to convince their managers (oh, the madness of a vertical organisational structure!) that my salary might not be in line with the work I was undertaking, things moved surprisingly fast.
The HR Department had to review and regrade my job, using a tool called the Hay Grade, a methodology used to evaluate job roles. As methodologies go, it’s not perfect, but it’s the one that was used. It turns out that I was right. I was awarded a whopping pay rise, backdated nine months. 

Now my pay rise was not of the same magnitude as those awarded to Queensland state politicians last week. King Campbell will enjoy a 21.8% increase to his annual salary, taking it to $379,562, and it will be backdated to July 2013. His back pay alone will amount to almost $50,000 (before tax).

In fairness, King Campbell did not award this to himself. The Queensland Independent Remuneration Tribunal reached this number, deciding that his salary should be within range of Chief Executive Officers of other NGOs. The Tribunal was formed when Acting Premier Jeff Seeney unblinkingly accepted a 41% increase, which would have taken the Premier’s salary to within shouting distance of President Obama’s salary – and far beyond that in any other Australian state Premier.  That 41% was subsequently howled down by Queenslanders, still reeling from a year of brutal Public Service job cuts. 

After the furore last year over the initial pay rise, care has been taken circulate the talking points to all and sundry, with government ministers all banging on about the “independence” of the independent tribunal, as if “independent” is synonymous with “fair”, “justified” or “deserved”. I don't think the LNP MPs will be willing to negotiate over this one.

I can’t help thinking back to my own experience, and the parameters on which I was assessed. While my role had developed significantly over the years, Campbell Newman’s role as premier has not changed. Therefore the only basis for increasing his salary is to bring it into line with other Australian states.

Having said that, surely every salary adjustment must take job performance into account. This week’s ReachTel Poll saw only 34.8% of respondents rating Mr Newman’s performance as Very Good or Good. His plan to allow Queensland doctors to resign and be replaced if they don’t sign new contracts has just 14.9% support. It looks as though his job performance rating doesn't support a pay rise.

The most telling question of all, the one that deals with the public’s perception of Mr Newman’s performance, was this: 

If an election were held today, regardless of who you would vote for, do you believe the Newman government has demonstrated that it would deserve to be re-elected on the basis of its actions over the last 2 years?

57.3% of respondents said no.

Just a year out from the next state election, the LNP should enjoy their oversize pay rises, as it appears that many of them might be looking for new jobs from about this time next year.

PostScript: Queensland’s tiny contingent of Labor MPs are against the pay rise, even though Labor Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk would have received an even larger salary increase than the Premier received.

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