Egyptian blogger from Cairo.
Revolutionary Socialist.
Partner & Creative Director at ThePlanet.

Fair’s Fair: Friends, Salaries and Mac & Cheese

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“Guess who just got a raise.”

“That’s awesome! Congrats, man. Lots-a-maanies?”

“Kind of… flat 5 as opposed to 4300. So yeah, drinks on me.”

“That’s a big jump! What’s with the below-par excitement levels?”

“I don’t know… I feel like a bit of a corporate slut, you know?”

“Slut is good… ”

“Am I supposed to celebrate a raise knowing perfectly well that my boss makes millions out of our work day in, day out? This doesn’t make any sense, if you ask me. My company’s been making good money for years, and now they chip in with a 10% raise or whatever just to keep me motivated to show up to the office everyday?

“Would you rather stick to your old pay?”

“Well… no. Of course not. But what I’m getting now is still a tiny portion of the revenues pouring in.”

“You’re not just going to get equity in the company, you have to work your way up. I mean, you’re making more than most of the guys we know. In fact, you wouldn’t be cashing in on so much with any other job around here.”

“True, but that doesn’t change the fact that my company’s making millions and they’re only paying me enough to keep me in this job. Or maybe a little more than what I could be getting elsewhere.”

“If you don’t like it, then you can leave.”

“I could, theoretically, but then you’d be paying for my drinks every time, and I’ll move back with my mom and take on mac & cheese dinners.”

“First of all, mac and cheese is mouth-watering delicious. It’s quality cuisine. Secondly, you can work anywhere else if you want. You’d be staying at home because that’s what you’ve chosen to do.”

“What are my options? There are very few jobs for me, and I probably won’t be making nearly as much.”

“So you have a secure job that’s hard to find these days, and you’re getting paid more than you would be anywhere else. I fail to see why you’re bitching and moaning.”

“I’m getting a higher pay that I’d be able to score around here, but that doesn’t mean that it’s fair.”

“What’s fair, then? 3 or 4 times the average salary outside your company?”

“No – I don’t get why we’re comparing with other people’s salaries, how do gauge what’s fair and what’s not by looking at other people?”

“Because if you’re making less than what you could’ve been making elsewhere, then it’s obviously not fair. But then again, you have the freedom to walk out and take the better job, so it kind of works itself out.”

“Forget what others are making in the market, that depends a lot more on the availability of jobs, and the number of unemployed looking to make a living. Look at the profits coming into the company, and then the small piece of the pie that all my colleagues and I are sharing between us. It cannot make sense.”

“How much is that? Do you have the numbers?”

“No, and that’s another thing. Why the hell aren’t they sharing how much they’re making? What are they hiding?”

“It’s company secrets, they have no reason to reveal it.”

“They have to share their books with the tax authorities, don’t they? You’d think the company’s own employees would get a better treatment than that, no?”

“No, that’s not how it works. Look, the company owners have every right to keep information about their revenues to themselves. What they owe you is what you both agreed on when you started, and what the law enforces on them, and that’s how it’s fair.”

“Dude, don’t get me started on the law, that’s fuckin’ ridiculous…”

“OK, OK. I won’t. Fuck the government authorities. But you can’t expect to be making nearly as much as the owners.”

“Why not?”

“Make as much?! Are you serious?!”

“Maybe not as much, but certainly not 100 times less.”

“You can’t compare yourself with the owners, they’re in a different league altogether.”

“They come into the office every morning and leave in the evening like I do. Hell, I’d argue that sometimes I have to work more than they do, and it’s not even my company!”

“You’re in no way comparable to the owners, man. Trust me.”

“?!”

“For starters, they took huge risks in starting this business and growing enough to be able to hire people like you.”

“What kind of risk, exactly?”

“Well, you get your salary at the end of the month, but they might make losses. You have nothing to worry about, while they risk losing the entire company.”

“True. That’s true. But what if the company goes bust and they close down.”

“They lose everything they’ve built, and that’s where the risk lies.”

“Will I get my salary?”

“If they close? No… how the hell are they going to pay you?”

“I thought I had nothing to worry about.”

“Well not nothing, but you need to keep working hard to keep the company afloat.”

“So you’re telling me that they’re taking a huge risk, but then again, if they fail, I lose my job and I don’t get my salary? How the hell can they argue that they’re taking the risk when we’re clearly in this together.”

“The risk is shared, true, but – ”

“Even worse, when they lose money, I lose my job and don’t get paid. But then while they’re making millions, I just make my regular salary and nothing changes… and I’m not going to count a 15% raise after 3 years of work as a reward when these guys are loaded with cash. If the risk doesn’t pay off, all they lose is the money invested in the company, and they’ll probably invest elsewhere and/or focus on other revenue streams. But all of the companies’ employees will be thrown out into the market looking for a job. We’re already having to deal with unemployment and it’s tough to find a job, let alone one with decent pay. And now there’ll be more people thrown into the mix, with fewer jobs available.”

“OK, the risk is there for everybody, but in different levels. Don’t forget that the owners are in this from the beginning, and they kept growing to reach where they are now, and a couple of years ago, they were able to hire you after taking many risks along the way that you weren’t part of.”

“That much is true, but then again they would’ve never made it without my colleagues who were working their before – taking risks alongside them, and they would’ve never reached where they are now if it weren’t for what I’ve been doing over the past couple of years.”

“Anyway, the owners have invested a lot of money at the beginning to get this project up and running to buy all of the stuff, you can’t just expect them to be making similar to what you are, they have to at least make their money back. Plus they have all sorts of expenses to take care of that you have no idea about.”

“I have no idea about the expenses because they never share their books – again, what are they hiding? So let’s take the revenue, and a company like mine doesn’t receive less than 100 million dollars a year. We can take that money, and then pay back part of the capital plus some. Then pay all of the expenses from machinery, to maintenance, electricity, materials, etc. Then pay all of the salaries. Then we can take what’s left and pay the 25% tax or whatever, and whatever the company owes for social security and the likes. What’s left all goes to the owners, who are about 5 people. They’re making more – significantly more – than all of their employees combined. Sure they work and take risks, just like we do, and sure they’ve invested money at the beginning, but that’s already been recovered with a massive surplus.”

“Right, so what’s left belongs to the owners in profit.”

“Why? They’re not taking any more risks than we all are, and they’ve already recovered the money they’ve initially invested.”

“Well they have to make profit. I mean, if they’re not going to be making money, they won’t open the business and create jobs.”

“So…?”

“So?! If they have no incentive to invest, they won’t create jobs, and you’d be eating mac and cheese and waiting for me to get you drinks. You need them to have a job that pays you so that you can live. Therefore, if we’re going to attract companies to open and create jobs, if we’re going to lure investors into splashing cash into our economy so that we can grow, we have to create incentives. It’s bad enough as it is that they have to pay all those taxes and social security bills. If it’s too much, they’ll give it up and go elsewhere.”

“Of course I need them to give me a job, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need me. It’s my colleagues and I making them money, they would never be able to do it on their own.”

“They’d hire others.”

“That’s true, but the others will only work because they don’t have any other option, and they’d still be the ones pumping out money for the owners. Whomever works is besides the point, the owners needs people – qualified professionals – to give in the hours and pump out the money. And also, we need them to be paying taxes so that we can get good education, proper healthcare, and a decent public transportation system and network.”

“Not their problem, is it?”

“It’s everyone’s problems. I mean, don’t forget, you need properly educated people who can stay healthy and get to and from work so that you can generate profits. So it’s not a luxury, they actually need these services to make profits. So in a way, you might not be attracting them when you’re taxing them, but you will attract them if you have skilled professionals and lots of employed people who can buy their products, and some unemployed people who are willing to work for more hours and less pay.”

“And profit.”

“And profit, yes.”

“Like attractive profit, not money that they could be easily making somewhere else with less risks and stress or whatever.”

“Sure, attractive profit, but within reason, you know? If the 5 owners are making a combined profit of 250,000 or even half a million a month, they’re making a lot more than the rest, and they’re very comfortable. Why is it that they have to make hundreds of millions a year, and then make a huge deal about how they’re paying salaries of 4 or 5 grand? Seems excessive if you ask me.”

“I mean, they’re paying taxes. The more money they make, the more money going into public spending of services for all of us. So the more money they make, the better.”

“Of course, but at what expense? If we all get the bigger chunk of the pie, we’d all be a lot richer, which means we’ll have more money to spend in the economy to help other owners make profits and create jobs, and the owners would be very wealthy, just not filthy rich. I have no problem with them making money, I just can help but feel like they’re ripping us all off because this is money that we’ve made for them, yet we’re getting lousy salaries while they’re banking millions. Not fuckin’ cool, if you ask me.”

“They’ll make enough money for themselves and for you guys. I understand what you’re saying about salaries being relative, but what if you don’t compare yourself with the owners and just focus from an objective point of view: How much is satisfactory for you?”

“As much as possible.”

“As much as possible? That’s a little greedy, don’t you think.”

“It is, but I don’t think the owners are any less ‘greedy’ than I am. In fact, I don’t think anyone’s greedy, it’s just about taking advantage of your position and making the most of it. You want the best possible outcome.”

“You don’t have to be greedy. And neither do they, I understand. But if they don’t make a lot of money, and you take a big chunk of the pie like you said, which coincidentally resembles your current pay, would you be satisfied?”

“If what I’m getting is a sizable yet equal chunk with my colleagues, and comparable with the owners?”

“Yes. Would that work for you?”

“Yes, I’d be happy. I’d be very satisfied.”

“Are you kidding?”

“What?”

“Dude, the reason why we’re wasting our time with the useless conversation is because you weren’t happy with the new raise, and now you’re saying that if I change some conditions that have nothing to do with you, you’d be happy? Why don’t you just be happy now since you’re perfectly capable of it?”

“No, no. That’s not how I see it. If the owners are making shit loads of money like they are, then my colleagues and I deserve more, because without us, they wouldn’t be making this money. But, if they’re not making much, then I’d get what I’m getting now, and that’s fair.”

“So you just don’t want the owners to be making lots of money. You’d rather your salaries be similar and low, then different, but while you’re getting paid more.”

“I’d rather my output along with that of my colleagues go to all of us and not just the owners. I’d rather my owners get paid for their investment, time, effort and experience. While we all get paid for the same, but without the investment, obviously. That would be fair for everyone. If they can manage to make money without us, then they can go ahead and do it themselves. But they need us to make money, yet we don’t get to see any of it.”

“Interesting… so now that you’re seemingly pissed, what are you going to do about it? Talk to management? I don’t think they’ll but any of the shit you’ve been spitting out today.”

“I have no fuckin’ clue… any thoughts?”

“I say we get mac and cheese, and drinks on you to celebrate the raise :-)”

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One comment

Mohamad Majzoub

November 4, 2014

What is missed in this post is that if a war or local conflict erupts, the business owner loses a lot in this case and in some cases he may be forced to sell the business to cover his losses or incur a big amount of debt while the employee continues to get his fixed salary without incurring any of the burdens of the loss – Same would happen if an economic recession hits the country. The only case where the employee would lose his job is if the whole business model of the company becomes flawed and there’s no need for its products/services OR its operation is disastrous in that no investor would be willing to buy this business.

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