Leadership Charity Begins at Home

Plaudits should be given to those to whom it is due. It is great to see a small but growing number of community leaders following the lead of government ministers and the Director of Health and agreeing to donate a % of their exorbitant salaries. We do not use the exorbitant term lightly, by almost any measure NZ’s public servants’ salaries are massively disproportional to the population sizes, or more importantly incomes, of those they ‘serve’.These massive salaries have been driven by a clever system of setting those salaries based upon % increases, and interesting benchmarks being made with a select group of top executives. 

So in a time where hundreds of thousands are destined to lose their jobs and have difficulty putting food on the table, or paying their rates in order to keep a roof over their heads, it is laudable that some of these high paid leaders are showing empathy.We think this is a good start and call on it to go further on two fronts.

First, in these very difficult times pay cuts across all senior levels of the public sector should be universal. The commentary from many political ‘leaders’ is that these cuts or donations are merely a drop in the bucket. This is an interesting commentary, and some might say self-serving. It is hardly a drop in the bucket when there are over 80 senior officials in the Auckland City Council who earn over $250,000 (1 Stuff 20th Apr 2020).While we acknowledge Auckland is our biggest city, up and down the country we have council employees (of what would be considered almost villages in many countries), earning hundreds of thousands, not to mention all of the senior public servants in central government and senior executives in council-controlled organisations.

We could add to this director’s fees and the list goes on and on. Some of these employees are also drawing superannuation, and/or a raft of other taxpayer funded perks. As some commentators point out ‘if you add up the smashed avocado’s you can save big’. In this case we are talking about hundreds of millions of smashed avocados. If we are to boost our economy through spending to get through this crisis, then let it come from our empathetic leaders, not be forced onto desperate taxpayers or future generations.On the second front we also applaud the government fast tracking legislation to allow public servants to take pay cuts (2 Stuff 21st Apr 2020).

Many of our local body politicians have stated that they are willing to make donations, to family members, their own organisations, or existing charities that they support (3 NZ Herald 20th Apr 2020). This is great but we are sure they will all agree that it is much better for them as leaders of their community to take this money as an actual pay cut as soon as the law allows. While we in no way doubt the integrity of our current group of councillors or senior public officials, in less ethical hands donating to your family, an organisation you control, or your own select charitable group may not have clear and transparent results.

We therefore look forward to all Councillors and senior executives taking an actual and lasting pay cut to help us through this crisis. After all - We are All in This Together.Finally, we would like to echo the words of our Prime Minister and thank the True Essential Workers.

This crisis has put the focus on who our essential workers are. As the Prime Minister said in her Covid-19 announcement on Wednesday, we need to thank all the cleaners. Those people on the front line who often earn minimum wage. They risk their lives by going to clean and disinfect our workplaces and public spaces of this virus.

Maybe those senior public ‘servants’ can go onto the front line and truly earn their massive salaries…


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