Wednesday, 1 February 2012

It really does make the world go 'round.

We all need it.  Most of us wish we had more of it.  Sometimes we fight about. We're happy to get it and some people are happy to give it.  We use it most days.  I'm talking about money.

On my way home today I left the city from Flinders Street Station.  It was the first time I had travelled in peak hour in a while and I was amazed at the number of people crammed into this space.  As I descended to the platform on the escalator my mobile phone rang.  I was talking on the phone as I walked along and I noticed a man and a woman coming towards me.  They seemed to be sizing me up and as they approached they closed in on me until they were standing directly in front of me and I couldn't easily pass.  They started to talk to me about their need for money with no regard to the fact that I was actually in conversation with someone else.  I realised later that I had stopped listening to the person on the other end of the phone because I was assessing my personal safety.  When I realised that the two people were no threat to me, I merely walked between them.  I looked back to see they had already found their next quarry.

On this evening's television news, three of the top stories were about money, but angles were all really different.

Firstly, there was the news that workers in the community sector in Australia have been granted a significant wage rise by Fair Work Australia.  The basis of the claim was that workers in the sector were not being paid equally, when compared to other workers doing similar jobs in other industries because they were predominantly women.  If you're into the detail, you can read the decision here.  

I've worked in the community sector (as a fundraiser for an organisation supporting people suffering from a particular disease) and I know that I was being paid significantly less than what I would have been paid if I had been doing the same work in another sector.  Some of this was offset by the ability to salary package and receive a significant tax benefit, but not to the extent of the increase brought into effect by this decision.

The story started by explaining the decision, then focussed on a particular young woman and what the decision would mean for her.  Next it reported on what a dissenting member of the full bench said when they ruled against the majority.  Predictably, next were the reactions of employer groups.  Now there's a headline, I thought: Bosses rail against pay rise.

In stark contrast, was the story of the former owner and boss of Grenda Buslines, Ken Grenda, who sold his family owned bus company for $400million.  He gave $15million of it to staff, recognising the people working there as being critical to the success of the business.  This brought a tear to my eye.  The footage of workers talking to their boss (and about their boss) was moving.  So were the stories of how the significant amounts of money had arrived when it was badly needed.

In particular, I was impressed when Mr Grenda said that many of his employees had been with the company for all of their working life and he felt some responsibility for them, apart from the fairness of rewarding their service and loyalty.  You can read that story here.  It's hardly surprising that the company has been so successful!

What a great point of contrast with the bosses opposed to the pay rise granted to community service workers.

Lastly was the story of 10,000 more people joining the biggest class action in Australia's legal history as  Bank SA and St George Bank were joined to the action against bank exception fees.  A classic story of the little people joining together to fight something that banks have long held as non-negotiable.  You can read more here.

So, there was a lot of stuff about money today.  Hardly surprising really.  Ken Grenda stands out for me and I loved the way this ordinary looking bloke, who seemed genuinely humbled by the attention, showed what being a leader and a boss is all about.  Pass me another hankie.

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