Is This Bad News?

The following item appeared in The Herald-Sun and The Age on Saturday.
Cameron resigns from aid body over 'perks'.
Mr Clyde Cameron ... has resigned from the board of the aid organisation Care Australia because of what he describes as the extravagant and excessive salaries and perks paid to its officers.
Mr Cameron said yesterday he was disappointed that Care's board ... had refused to take any notice of his “legitimate complaints” about the way staff were “helping themselves to such big pay and perks.”
He singled out Care Australia's national director, Mr Ian Harris, as one of those being paid too much. Mr Harris's remuneration for 1991-1992 is almost $90,000.

Getting Paid for Doing Good.

I joined World Vision in 1976. My title was Communications Officer. I wrote copy for advertising and helped with World Vision News. My salary was $257 a week before tax. About $13,400 a year.
I was not an executive or a manager and had never worked as one. I didn't know what my boss, the Communications Director, got. I presumed it was more.
By 1982 when I became executive director of World Vision of Hong Kong my salary had gone to around $40,000 a year. This seemed like a lot of money to me.
I remember wondering whether it was fair that World Vision paid executives and managers salaries that were up to five or six times the salaries of clerks and labourers.
To be honest, I got rather churned up about it. I worried that I was not being a faithful disciple of Christ if I accepted my pay packet. I even wrote to my boss at World Vision International and asked for a salary decrease.
His response was interesting and helpful.
“Philip, it is not up to World Vision to decide your salary on the basis of what you want.”
“But,” I replied, ”shouldn't we set an example? Shouldn't World Vision people live modestly?”
“Take vows of poverty? Perhaps we should, Philip. But World Vision has decided such decisions are personal matters, not corporate matters. They are not up to World Vision, but up to the individual. World Vision is not a church, nor a religious order. We are a professional development agency with specific tasks to accomplish.
“It is World Vision's responsibility to make sure that your salary is fair and just. If we under-value our staff by forcing them to accept low wages, we let others believe that our whole work is without value.
“What you do with the money we pay you is your business. Give it back to World Vision if you want, but please allow World Vision to express salary justice for you.”

What is Fair and Just?

You all know the way we decide this question at World Vision of Australia. Read page 30 and following in the Staff Manual.
Put simply, salaries at World Vision of Australia are set at the lower end of the range for similar jobs in similar sized organisations.
People at World Vision of Australia are paid a little less than their peers get in Australian companies with annual turnover of $70 million and 250+ staff. (Don't look at other agencies, by the way. None of them is this big. In my opinion, Care Australia is on shaky ground if they are relating salaries to World Vision. Care is only one-tenth the size of World Vision of Australia).

How is our policy fair?

First, it applies an even handed approach for all staff. Everyone is treated equitably. We don't penalise people with experience and qualifications more than school leavers.
Second, World Vision itself does not decide the salaries. The market does. Each one of us gets paid what other organisations of a similar size say we should be paid. Even then, we deliberately trail the field by adopting the lower quartile as our benchmark. And the board deliberately takes a very modest approach on tax free benefits compared with most organisations.
Third, staff do not set their own salaries. No-one can help themselves to big pay and perks. Executive salaries are decided by the Board within the narrow ranges of the market place survey. Likewise, managers' salaries are set by executives, and other staff are set by managers.
Fourth, it is Biblical. The labourer deserves to be paid, says Jesus in Luke 10:7.
Fifth, it is conservative. Everyone working for World Vision could get more money doing the same job in another organisation of similar size.

Hypocrisy and Double Standards.

Frankly, criticism about fair salaries for charity workers is plain hypocrisy.
The critics are suggesting that it is OK for people to be paid to make chocolate, or write news, or make-up women's faces, but not to bring water to the thirsty, or to clothe the naked, or to feed the hungry.
Once again, our sinful society is shown to have double standards.
Actually, I would be delighted if we could change the value systems of our society.
Let's change. Now people are rewarded according to how much responsibility they have. Let's change by rewarding people according to how much contribution their efforts make to humanity.
Then charity workers, pastors, nurses and teachers would get paid more; and pimps, pornographers, con-men and the manufacturers of useless products would get paid less.
It is clear we live in a sinful world that exploits goodness and rewards exploitation.
Sometimes Christian organisations are unwitting accomplices to this sin. World Vision does not have to be of this world.
Our salary policy is one of the many ways that World Vision expresses our belief that our work is serious business. Perhaps the most important work being done in the world today. Worthy of the best people.

My personal response.

I don't want to lay a guilt trip on anyone. But I thought it might be helpful to say a word about how I responded to the challenge given to me by my old boss.
First, I accepted that what World Vision paid me was a fair salary for a person of my experience, qualifications and skill in an organisation of similar size.
Second, I responded to the organisation's confidence, by accepting my responsibility to share out my salary as a good steward.
We committed ourselves as a family to a modest lifestyle. My wife has been free to concentrate on her calling as a mother and homemaker. We can afford to be generous to the church, to World Vision and other works of the Kingdom.
In the final analysis, salaries at World Vision are not an expression of what people are worth. They are an expression of fairness and justice by World Vision in response to Luke 10:7.
I pray that all World Vision staff will react to distribute their salaries with responsibility and justice.
And I praise God that issues like this protect us from the awful sin of complacency.