ABC staff wages revealed – what to do if your team learns what everyone earns

Apologies and grovelling followed the disclosure of the gross wage figures of 95 ABC employees in The Australian yesterday.

ABC managing director Mark Scott was on the front foot, while on bended knee, when he said in an email to staff: “First and foremost, I want to apologise that information like this has not been securely managed. Staff are entitled to be concerned and upset.”

And some, apart from Scott, were upset, like veteran radio host Phillip Adams who told Crikey,“I’m not happy… always accepted the fiction that we were paid much the same,” he said.

Scott said he would be taking up the topic with his management.  

Adams wasn’t listed in the two page list of wages, where it was revealed top-earning presenter Tony Jones was on $355,789, while Foreign Correspondent reporter Mark Corcoran was at the rear on $172,035.

When employees learn what their colleagues earn, the rage can be hard to manage, according to Our HR Company managing director Margaret Harrison.

Harrison told SmartCompany that disclosure, whether on a big scale such as in the case of the ABC team, or on a small scale between a handful of colleagues, would lead to difficulty in some cases.

“I think people’s salaries are sacrosanct, they should never be publicised,” she says. 

She raised the case of two ABC Breakfast co-hosts, where according to The Australian, Virginia Trioli earns $84,000 more than Michael Rowland. “I think that could cause a ruction eventually,” she says.

To quell tensions, it’s all about keeping a cool head, she advises.

“It will pass, the squawk and the chatter will go away.”

Harrison says it is up to management to guide the conversation towards the usual salary negotiation processes and not make “knee-jerk reactions”.

“It’s between management, HR and the individual when salaries are being reviewed,” she says.

If staff decide to fight for equivalent pay through collective action, she advises that if the “if the union gets involved it’s over to them.”

“I don’t think it changes the picture very much at all,” she said, adding the negotiation would be about parity of employment, parity of reimbursement and parity of responsibility whether the union was involved or not.

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