June 05, 2014

Horse 1685 - Cotard's Syndrome Redefined?

A senior executive of pharmaceutical group GSK Australia said high labour costs that led to the outsourcing of about 150 Victorian manufacturing jobs were unlikely to affect workers making Panadol at its Sydney factory.
Vincent Cotard, general manager of consumer healthcare Australia, said although all GSK manufacturing facilities were continually compared with operations in other countries, the company's factory in Ermington was a centre of excellence. 
The company submitted its 2013 financial report to the corporate regulator on Tuesday, showing a less than 1 per cent drop in revenue to $1.4 billion. Profit before tax rose 3 per cent to $42.8 million.
- The Age, 4th Jun 2014

I hope that I've done the maths correctly here; so here it goes.

150 workers X $250,000 each = $37.5 million.
$42.8 million - $37.5 million = $5.3 million.

I'm confused.
"A senior executive of pharmaceutical group GSK Australia said high labour costs that led to the outsourcing of about 150 Victorian manufacturing jobs"
Assuming that each of those 150 workers were given a pay increase of $250,000 per year each, then GSK Australia would have still been turning a profit of $5.3 million. This isn't paying them wages of $250,000 per year each but increasing their wages from whatever they were paid by 3.3 times the rate of Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings.

I decided to do a little investigation and find out exactly what Vincent Cotard, general manager of consumer healthcare Australia for GSK was paid but GlaxoSmithKline doesn't publish those figures. In fact if you try to do a search for Vincent Cotard, it turns up very few results but curiously, it does give you this:
Cotard's syndrome is another rare condition in which the patient has nihilistic delusions and ideation of immortality. 
I don't know if this is a strange case of irony or not.

Some time during the twentieth century and presumably after the horrors of the Second World War, society collectively abandoned the idea that work was noble.

From about the time of Martin Luther onwards, the idea of work itself, that is the idea of everyday gainful employment as opposed to the Christian idea of "works", was rethought of as something which both benefits the individual and society as a whole.
This idea would become known as the "Protestant Work Ethic" which other writers like Max Weber eventually came to see as the driving force behind much of Europe's industrial capitalism.

Coupled with the idea that work was noble, was also the idea that monetary success itself was almost vulgar and base. The American philosopher William James once wrote in a letter to H.G. Wells that:
"The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess "Success". That — with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word success — is our national disease."
- William James, to HG Wells, 11 Sep 1906

Noted orator, satirst and writer Hilaire Belloc wrote:
Lord Finchley tried to mend the Electric Light
Himself. It struck him dead: And serve him right!
It is the business of the wealthy man,
To give employment to the artisan.

After the Second World War in an area of real rising incomes, at some stage success itself came to be the thing to strive for. I suppose that this is fine in an era when the rising tide of incomes causes all boats to rise but from about the late 1970s onwards, success no longer depended on actual work.

Work can now be done by people in even cheaper countries and so business managers (especially of very large corporations) tend  not to look at work as noble any more, but rather workers themselves are little more than economic labour units which are inherently replaceable.

I think of George Orwell's 1941 essay "The English Revolution" in which he wrote that:
A man with £3 a week and a man with £1,500 a year can feel themselves fellow creatures, which the Duke of Westminster and the sleepers on the Embankment benches cannot.
- George Orwell, The English Revolution, 19th Feb 1941

When people are treated as economic labour units which are inherently replaceable, there are little if any moral consequences for people like the Duke of Westminster or even a Vincent Cotard at GSK to push 150 workers aside. They in effect, no longer even live in the same country; so why should there be any feeling towards them.
In fact management not only doesn't think that it no longer needs to not to look at work as noble any more but also, that it actually deserves to be paid more:

Society and governments need to be amenable to disproportionately allow/encourage the few to retain that fatter profit share. The Managerial Aristocracy, like in the Gilded Age, the Roaring Twenties, and the thriving nineties, needs to commandeer a vast chunk of that rising profit share, either through capital income, or simply paying itself a lot.
- Citigroup Industry Note, Equity Strategy, 16th Oct 2005.

I have a question for Vincent Cotard, are "high labour costs" really what led to the loss of those 150 jobs? Really? Or was it something else?

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