Watkins on press secretary salaries

Dom Post Political Editor Tracy Watkin blogs:

It takes a lot to shock the hardened hacks around the press gallery – but news of the pay rates awarded to the new intake of press secretaries has caused quite a stir.

Heh guaranteed to do so. What I found interesting was the range:

Eight media staff were employed under Labour on salaries of $100,000-or-more, seven in the $10,000 band below. And that was in November 2008; as a general rule, the closer to an election, the higher the pay rates – salary demands tend to be ratcheted up when an election is looming, particularly when it looks like a government is on its last legs and the vacancies come thick and fast as longer-serving press secs desert for positions with more job security. …

Meanwhile, you have to feel sorry for the three unnamed National press secretaries who signed up for less than $60,000.

I don’t think it is a problem that some press secretaries are on under $60,000 and some over $100,000.

The most senior Ministers need highly experienced people as press secretaries. They will have people with sometimes decades of experience, and need to pay to recognise that. These are the officers where almost every day is a crisis day – as in there is some sensitive issue they have to deal with.

Some of the more junior Ministers have an easier ride. For example Consumer Affairs doesn’t normally create too many issues, so that Minister may only need someone who has been a journalist for a few years – with their skills being more on good written communication skills, rather than on devising “key lines” etc.

So the salary range isn’t that unusual to my eyes. I will say I was a bit surprised that 18 press secretaries are on over $100,000 as my gut reaction is probably only the front bench (10 or so) need someone that experienced. But I’m no expert on what the market rates are.

I remember my own pay negotiation when I was in the PM’s Office in the late 90s. I got screwed over and settled for far too low a salary. The problem was the bastards knew I’d probably work there for almost free, and exploited that 🙂

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