It is a speech that goes against the grain, which has provoked strong indignant reactions. In a relaxed tone, Australian millionaire Tim Gurner did not go out of his way to explain his vision of the world of work. Invited this Tuesday at a conference dedicated to real estate and organized by the country's main economic newspaper, the Financial Review, the businessman, real estate developer specializing in luxury housing, estimated that the relationship with work had evolved in the wrong direction since the Covid-19 crisis.
From now on, workers are no longer involved in their positions as before, he regretted. “People decided they didn’t really want to work as much anymore because of Covid and that had a huge impact on productivity. The professions have definitely lost productivity,” he explained.
Worse, according to him, all these workers “have been paid handsomely in recent years so as not to do too much.” “And that must change,” says the man who has built luxury apartments all over Australia. The solution according to him? Increase “the unemployment rate from 40 to 50%”, do not hesitate to talk about “suffering” at work and “remind people that they work for the employer, and not the other way around”. He regrets that the health crisis has changed employees' vision of their work: "Today, employees believe that the employer is extremely lucky to have them, and not the other way around."
Implying that employees had thus become lazy, he called for “breaking this attitude”. “This must be done by damaging the economy, and that is what all governments in the world are trying to do,” he argued, referring to the “massive layoffs” which are already having the desired effect. “No one talks about it but people are getting fired and we are starting to see less arrogance in the world of work,” he finally said. Before launching: “This must continue, so that it is reflected in the balance of costs”.
This speech takes place in a context where demand for housing construction is exploding in Australia. On the same day, Commonwealth Bank (CBA) chief economist Stephen Halmarick said there was a shortfall in housebuilding in the country. “We need to build around 230,000 or 240,000 homes per year, while we are at only 160,000,” he declared. Furthermore, a 50% increase in unemployment “would see the unemployment rate increase from 3.7% to 5.6%” and “the number of unemployed people increase from 541,000 to 811,500” in the country, according to Stephen Halmarick, cited by the Financial Review.
Still accessible a few hours ago, his company's website was no longer available at the end of the day. But on social networks, the video extract, widely shared, quickly became controversial, sparking strong reactions in several countries. The American Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, sent him a little “reminder”: “Let us remember that top managers have increased their own salaries so much that the ratio between the remuneration of managers and that of workers is now at one of the highest levels ever recorded,” she wrote on X.
Same annoyance on the side of the Liberal MP, member of the Australian House of Representatives, Keith Wolahan, who simply affirmed that Tim Gurner's ambition to see the unemployment rate increase “could not be more disconnected from reality”. “Losing a job is not a number. There are people living on the streets and just as many dependent on food aid,” he lamented, giving his vision of the Australian economy. “Right now, families are working multiple jobs just to stay afloat,” he said.
This is not the first time that Tim Gurner, who is at the head of the eponymous Gurner Group, has created controversy. Already in 2017, the businessman hit the headlines, criticizing the habits of Australian “millennials”, ready to spend 19 dollars to treat themselves to an “avocado toast” or even 4 dollars for a coffee, while they could instead save to afford a first home.