The reality of working life


Wayne Butson

Wow! This is my first contribution to The Daily Blog and it is with considerable apprehension that I put my finger to the keyboard given the company I am keeping in this blogosphere.
Congratulations to Martyn for his vision and I look forward to being able to contribute to the debate around removing this sorry and cot-case Government from the Treasury benches. 

In the areas that I spend my daily working life this Government has been a disaster: Following its re-nationalisation and the promise that brought, rail is now going backwards while waterfront working conditions have sunk to dire depths with vulnerable workers being exploited by non-union stevedores or hire firms more than at any time in the past. 

Johnny, the not-so-funny clown and other members of his circus troop, have to go if we are to make progress as a nation toward economic and social prosperity.

After listening to the news the other day I thought that four years on from the global financial crisis not a lot has changed and NZ remains mired with high unemployment and sluggish growth while accountability remains as rare today as it was in 2008. In 2008, unfettered greed and rapacious capitalism brought the world’s financial system to the brink of collapse and ruin. Simple taxpaying folk around the world had to put their hands into their pockets or agree to burden nations with financial debt spanning multi-generations, and all to bail out the self-same greedy corporations, stabilise financial markets and generally get the ship back on an even keel. 

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen a lot of accountability. The rogues who played fast and loose with credit and other dodgy instruments haven’t paid, there’s been no curtailment in fat bonus cheques  – despite poor financial results. 

In NZ the gravy train appears to roll on for some. When the sorry financial state of Solid Energy, the Government’s pin up poster child of it’s doomed asset sales programme, finally made it into the public domain it became clear that this was a poorly performing coal company. Yet it still managed to pay out a disgusting $23m in bonuses to clearly undeserving executives. This is proof that there are two forms of remuneration theory at work in our corridors of power and influence:

• One is that all goods and services MUST be purchased at the lowest possible cost either by paying workers the minimum wage or by buying goods from suppliers who pay this or less to workers; and

TDB Recommends

• Two,  that those who make these choices must be paid at the highest possible rates and, if successful, paid even bigger bonuses. 

How you can possibly qualify for $23m in bonuses whilst driving a company’s balance sheet into the ground beggars belief? 

Another example of the remuneration gap between management and workers is the recent $600,000 bonus paid to Lyttelton Port CEO Peter Davie which doubled his pay to a cool $1.02m. This was at a time when workers were receiving single digit percentage increases. But to be fair, and for full disclosure I do have to concede that the port workers also received a black crockery cup which, when full of hot beverage, congratulates them for achieving 300,000 TEUs (a TEU is a standard 20ft container) through the port. They also received a small wooden plaque made from a piece of one of the shattered Lyttelton wharves recognising their contribution during the earthquake in keeping the operation going. Some may appreciate this recognition more than Davie does his $600,000 or, as I would suspect, they might prefer that he got a cup and a plaque as well.     

We can all put a new line in the sand for accountability in NZ. It is time for the Johnny circus to pack up and leave town next election day.   

Wayne Butson is the general secretary of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union

[poll id=”11″]


  1. I often find the bonuses system completely out of whack.
    I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  2. This bonus system bollix has to change. Bonus are supposed to be a reward for good work, well done, have a top up. It seems like people are expecting them, not matter what job they do.

    It is just outrageous that people are getting bonuses when they have driven the company into the ground or get bailed out by the government. Not to mention the offence it gives to the actual workers who slave day after day on low wages.

  3. Two, that those who make these choices must be paid at the highest possible rates and, if successful, paid even bigger bonuses.

    There’s no “if successful” in there – they’ll get the bonuses no matter what happens.

  4. From one colonial to another nice picture but when was the last time you were in the cab of a locomotive?

Comments are closed.