Published: 20/09/2022
Category: The Bulletin
Published: 20/09/2022
Category: The Bulletin

I thought pigs would sooner fly than I would utter the words “I agree with RBA Governor Phillip Lowe.” However, it’s 2022 and anything seems possible at this point. 

Just a few days ago, I received a reminder SMS that a quarterly electricity bill was due in a few days to the amount of $1630. 

The company’s website smarmily assured me that they are “here to help,” which is to say they were happy to move the due date of this extortion forward a couple of weeks. My saviours! 

My abhorrent crime for which I am forking up well over a week’s pay was keeping my poorly insulated house warm through a bitter winter. I did this mostly for my baby daughter. Sharehouse me would have gritted my teeth from under layers of jackets to avoid the crippling bill. 

This experience is not mine alone. Australians are shivering through a third year of COVID and myriad other viruses, grappling with rising prices while wages are failing to keep up with the cost-of-living, a record number of Australians are taking up secondary (and third, and sometimes fourth) jobs just to get by. Meanwhile, energy companies are reporting huge increases in profits. 

It’s not wrong to feel shafted. You have not “not worked hard enough”. We are being robbed. 

Consumers and workers are wisening up to corporate doublespeak though. No wonder approval of unions in the US is at the highest it’s been since the 1960s.  

It’s only a matter of time before these sentiments reach our shores. In fact, I would argue they are already here. Working Australians are sick of watching fretfully as the price of essentials surge upwards while we’re forced to hear about companies’ record profits. 

Happening concurrently with this, data compiled by the Guardian has revealed that the chief executives of Australia’s top 20 companies received an average pay rise of more than 17 per cent. That’s over nine times the average pay increase of their full time workers. Nine times. 

CEO of Aristocrat Leisure Trevor Croker – a maker of pokies machines which makes it seem even more insidious – received a 69 per cent pay rise and is now sitting pretty on $7.53 million a year. 

Meanwhile, banking CEOs are out here giving themselves hefty raises while their own workers in the finance sector have seen their wages go backwards to 2015 levels. 

Companies evidently can afford to give workers pay rises, and by that token they can also afford to give workers permanent roles with paid leave entitlements. 

The Federal and State Governments have agreed to extending Paid Pandemic Leave for as long as isolation rules are in place.  

Now it’s time for big companies to do their part. It’s not just COVID that workers can get sick with, and the pandemic has taught us a lot about the detrimental effect of urging people to come to their workplaces when sick.  

The continuation of paid pandemic leave is a fantastic win, although the root of the issue needs addressing: Employers must provide pathways to permanent work with paid leave entitlements. Workers deserve permanency and consistency in their jobs and we’ve seen the detrimental effect of people coming into work sick. 

It is easy to moralise about the “right thing to do is stay home” when a worker is sick. But for a worker in insecure work, be it casual or in the gig economy, not coming into work means not being paid. And not being paid means implicating yours and your families’ lives. What is the “right thing to do” then? 

If there was a silver lining in this post-pandemic world, it’s a renewed appreciation for the frontline workers – cleaners, aged care workers, supermarket workers – who’ve gotten Australia through these last few years. Cruelly though, they are exactly the workers who either have exhausted all their leave or didn’t have any to begin with. 

Workers from across every sector are crying out for the financial relief that would come from adequate wage increases, and they are sick of hearing that this will only fuel the cost-of-living crisis while CEOs continue to generously line their own pockets. 


Join us as we delve behind the headlines and see what really matters for young workers.

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CEO fat cheque factcheck: what’s really driving inflation?