279. Salaries

I’m old enough to remember the days when rugby league was professional and rugby union was supposedly an amateur game. (It wasn’t really, but the envelopes were shuffled under the table. It was ridiculous.)

The unsurprising result was a steady exodus of our best rugby players to league. Remember the outrage in 1990 when we lost two All Black fullbacks to league (Matthew Ridge and John Gallagher) in just one week?

Not a happy Ned.

These days we don’t lose All Blacks to league. We lose them to France, because those flash fellas have very deep pockets in their stylish suits.

I was put in mind of those unhappy memories this week with the latest spurt about public sector chief executive salaries. Duncan Garner got his full outrage on:

Andrew Little is right to target what our public officials earn.

Most New Zealanders would find their salaries obscene.

Most New Zealanders are lucky to earn 10% of what these people earn.

Do what Little says – cap the salaries at much lower levels – and if they don’t like it – they can take a hike.

We’ll get the next person.

No big deal.

The question is, Duncan, what if it’s a role where millimetres of skill are the difference between winning and losing? And “the next person” isn’t quite as good as the one you just told to take a hike? No big deal?

What happens if the person on the other side of the table has no salary cap? You want our regulator of multi-billion dollar industries, for example, to be “the next person”? No big deal. Seriously?

That’s not to say that we (tax payers and rugby fans) can or should match the salaries of private businesses or French rugby clubs. But it is to say that we’ve got to be somewhere within laughing distance of the salary ballpark if we’re going to have people on our side who can out-think their side of the table.

Put it this way: Ned would be quite happy to be “the next guy” running the New Zealand Superannuation Fund for not much more than the price of a pint and a pie. That would save you a stash of dough on CEO Adrian Orr’s salary of $800,000. Of course it would come with the risk of losing the whole $27,800,000,000.00 when I accept that excellent offer in my inbox from a Nigerian prince. No big deal, right? (As opposed to the 9.98 percent return achieved by that rat bag Mr Orr and his mates.)

For what it’s worth, my formula on how to have a winning rugby team (and public sector and private company) is:

  1. Get the very best coach you can. In a team game the coach has far more impact, for good or ill, than any individual player.
  2. Pay heavily for the very few players who really do have unique skills. Hint: there aren’t that many actually.
  3. Have a big deep roster of solid talent who are able to deliver on the coach’s game plan.
  4. Treat all of the above with respect, especially when you drop them. It will make recruiting the next generation a hell of a lot easier and cheaper if people actually want to play for you.
  5. Nourish the grass roots. Success is transient.

We can all get snitty at the sums being paid top rugby players and decide that we’re not really that fussed about winning the World Cup. Or we can say “Thank you for not accepting double or triple the salary on offer elsewhere and how about having this nice gong that didn’t cost us much. It’ll look nice on the mantelpiece.”

About Ned Davy

By hokey, the big fella’s tipped into his 50s. A rangy loose forward in his prime, good with the ball in hand, but rarely up with the play any more.
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One Response to 279. Salaries

  1. Erin says:

    Well said, Ned.

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