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NBN Co: pay is hardly a reflection of performance

The news that the staff at NBN Co are paid handsomely from the public purse comes in the same week that a study showed chief executives' pay in the US to be up to 5000 times that of an average worker in the companies they headed.

It is symptomatic of the era of greed that we live in, an era when people really have lost their sense of shame.

First reported in The Australian, the figures showed 2% of NBN employees, or 120, took home about $300,000 yearly while the chief executive Bill Morrow managed to get by on $3.56 million.

Eight percent of staff, or more than 480, were paid more than $200,000.

How are these fancy wages justified? Well, as far as NBN Co was concerned, it paid out sums like these because it was recruiting the best people.

You would think that that would be reflected in their work, wouldn't you? At least to some extent? Find me a dozen random people who are happy with what NBN Co has wrought in this big, brown land and I will stop complaining.

If we assume that the average NBN Co employee is paid $100,000, then Morrow takes home something like 35 times an average employee's pay.

Which puts him much below the titans of the game who are in the US, his home country: 225 companies were surveyed and in 188, the chief executive's pay could be used to pay more than 100 workers. And at 219 of those companies, the average worker would need to work 45 years to make one year's wages paid to the chief executive.

If NBN Co spent less effort on spin and activities that have little relevance to its prime task - rolling out the best broadband network possible under the existing constraints - one doubts that anyone would fault them for being paid princely amounts.

But the main activity of everyone from Morrow downwards seems to be the disclaiming of responsibility - and that extends even to the TV ads they run.

As the years tick by and the end of the rollout nears, one can be sure that bonuses will also be paid to these superlative workers for their accomplishments.

And what of Morrow? One is pretty sure that he will hang around in Australia after he finishes up with NBN Co, looking for the next company where he can continue his exceptional leadership. Telstra beckons.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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