The disastrous reign of Tony Marryatt is over, years after it would have ended in any country with less hypocrisy than NZ about "excellence" and leadership on merit. The $400k he takes away is the least of the damage. Far more expensive has been the culture of dithering incompetence sustained by the inability to sack him, and Christchurch's loss of civic pride and can-do spirit.
In 1999 Clark's Labour won an election promising to end golden parachutes for overpaid top managers. I thought it was good policy. Shortly before entering Parliament I'd acted for a company that had to pay many millions to exit a CEO. He'd played hard ball, knowing that paralysis and reinstatement by a stupid employment court would cost the company far more.
When Margaret Wilson was pushing through her Employment Relations Bill I noticed that it did nothing to deliver on the promise. Instead the law went in the opposite direction. It needed to end the so-called "unfair dismissal" rort that enables people getting exhorbitant salaries to hold their companies to ransom even when the board has lost all confidence in them, and they are destroying morale amongst their subordinates.
I tried to find out why she'd dropped the policy. She was uncommunicative.
I asked my friend Ross Wilson, head of the CTU, whether they had some objection to the change. "No" he said, provided it did not affect lower income workers who did not have the bargaining power and market value of the managerial classes.
So I drafted amendments to the Bill along the lines approved by Ross. They would have assimilated our law to the uncontroversial Australian law, stll supported by Aussie Labor and Coalition politicians. It says that employees over a salary bar only have unfair dismissal rights if they negotiate for them. Their market value is assumed to reflect bargaining power. So most senior Australian managers are employed with 'at will' dismissal terms, usually providing for payment in lieu of notice of between 3 and 12 months.
Minister Wilson would not entertain the amendment, despite the CTU support. Astonishingly the IOD and other establishment bodies took no interest. Only Roger Kerr of the Business Roundtable (comprised of CEOs) endorsed my amendment.
I've advanced that simple change to the current National government several times. It should have been a no brainer for them. But genuine reform was just too hard for Kate Wilkinson. I should have tried Gerry Brownlee. He must have found infuriating in Christchurch the waste of money, time, loyalty and trust associated with the New Zealand inability to get rid of people who can no longer lead.
With senior management the rights and wrongs are irrelevant. The interests of the organisations they lead (and serve) come first. When they no longer have the confidence of their boards, or those they lead, for whatever reason, they must go without delay.
One of the few justifications for their exorbitant pay is that it is also high risk.
Minister Bridges – I could probably find those draft amendments, or recreate them in a few hours, if you want to do something to make all New Zealanders very happy.