Naturally I had heard of Mr Getty (one of the world's wealthiest men), but I had never paid much heed to him or his life, except to recall he was also renowned as a miser, even turning his house phone into a payphone to deter guests from taking advantage.
Yet reading his book, one of the most startling passages of all went as follows:
'Labor costs are also high but I've often observed that the man who complains the loudest about excessive wages is the same one who spends fortunes on advertising and sales campaigns to sell his products to the millions. How on earth he expects the workers who form the bulk of those millions to buy his chinaware, garden furniture or whirling spray garden sprinklers unless they are well paid is beyond my comprehension. Labour is entitled to good pay, to its share of the wealth it helps to produce. Unless there is a prosperous 'working class' there can be no mass markets and no mass sales for merchants or manufacturers - and there will be precious little prosperity for anyone.'
How has Britain so seemingly neglected this absolute bedrock of a truth to eat out its own heart? Everywhere around me I see working class jobs disappearing fastest of all as shops either close down or become self-automated and once-safe council clerk jobs, librarian jobs and bank jobs are also being shed by the thousand. Customer feedback surveys such as the easyJet one I just completed are evidently geared towards dispensing with the check-in staff and reducing the number of flight attendants. Even Tourist Information offices are suddenly closing as if to say. 'Sod off tourists - you've all got smartphones so you don't need human beings to welcome you to this area and assist you any more!' Yet who do the powers that be think they are catering for if not the normal average-earning individual whom they are so quick to shed?
And where are all these people going to go and what are they supposed to do for the rest of their lives? Claim benefits? Emigrate? I know I've written similar postings in the past, but there are few subjects that remind you of them on a virtually daily basis quite like this subject does. Since I have been away for a week two of my favourite stores have closed down. Meanwhile in Ireland my old once-prosperous hometown of Ballymena is looking increasingly ragged round the edges and the poor old county town of Antrim has been decimated altogether, its once-gleaming and bustling 'Castle Centre' now like the Marie Celeste!
The top 10% of UK households are now said to be 850 times wealthier than the bottom 50% and the wealth inequalities continue to widen.
At the top end of the scale company director salaries have increased from the traditional 8 x the average worker's salary to 25 x and beyond, the justification being that 'you can't get the best for less', despite some spectacular and even criminal falls from grace by selfsame 'top' company directors and bankers. This also fails to take into account the inevitable drop in morale, and therefore productivity in the staff under such an overpaid chief, not least if they are being treated in a way engineered to subsidise the cost to the concern of this director's (and sometimes co-horts) salary, whilst simultaneously being patronised by company literature and events pretending they are valued. In the last fortnight it has emerged that the chief of Save the Children is earning £234,000pa, a fact which has outraged donors and the many volunteers who work for the charity for free and naturally consider a great deal more per £ should be going to children. It is all very well some pundits commenting 'Well you can't have a muppet running an international charity', but who is to say that someone who did it for say a quarter of that salary would be a muppet? Or any more of a muppet than the individual currently running it? On this basis I hereby allow my name to be put forward to do at least as good a job of saving children at a fraction of the salary...
While Mr Getty may well have been a miser on the personal front, he took his responsibilities as an employer generating wealth and employment very seriously it seems, and never lost sight of the bigger picture. In his view too, managers were there to 'direct' operations, not dictate or micromanage them, and imaginative thinking was always encouraged in employees, as was the feeling they had a personal stake in the success or failure of the company which inspired them to think of their own efficiencies and improved ways of doing things. He also found that formal education was little indicator of what made the best employees and was never scared of competing internationally, decades before most companies began to think globally. Could that be why so many of his companies and enterprises still exist and thrive today, nearly 40 years after his death?