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Billionaire Tim Gurner sorry for 'insensitive' call for 275k Aussies to lose jobs

"I do appreciate that when someone loses their job it has a profound impact on them and their families."

Tim Gurner
Tim Gurner took aim at "unproductive tradies" and said the unemployment rate needed to rise. (Source: Michael Quelch/Australian Financial Review)

A billionaire property mogul has apologised for “insensitive comments” he made about workers he claimed were entitled and said should lose their jobs.

Gurner Group chief executive Tim Gurner welcomed “pain” for Australian employees if it will remind them they are lucky to be in a job, taking aim at “unproductive tradies” for being “paid a lot to do not too much” and younger workers embracing more work-life balance.

He issued an apology after heavy criticism about the tone-deaf remarks that come at a time many Australians are struggling to keep their heads above water in a cost of living crisis.

“At the AFR Property Summit this week I made some remarks about unemployment and productivity in Australia that I deeply regret and were wrong,” he told Yahoo Finance.

“There are clearly important conversations to have in this environment of high inflation, pricing pressures on housing and rentals due to a lack of supply, and other cost of living issues.

“My comments were deeply insensitive to employees, tradies and families across Australia who are affected by these cost-of-living pressures and job losses.

“I want to be clear: I do appreciate that when someone loses their job it has a profound impact on them and their families and I sincerely regret that my words did not convey empathy for those in that situation.”

Are you struggling and have a story to tell? Contact belinda.grantgeary@yahooinc.com

He had called for unemployment figures to rise up to 50 per cent, which would represent 275,000 Australians being sacrificed for his vision for the economy.

What did Tim Gurner that sparked backlash?

“We need to remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around,” Gurner said.

“In my view, we need to see pain in the economy. There’s been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them as opposed to the other way around.”

Gurner acknowledged the pandemic had a lot to do with a change in the work-life dynamic and said an attitude shift in how staff are treated would help bring employees back into line.

“We’ve got to kill that attitude and that has to come through hurting the economy which is what the whole global world is trying to do.

“The governments around the world are trying to increase unemployment, to get that to some sort of normality, and we’re seeing it. I think every employer now is seeing it.”

He said mass layoffs led to “less arrogance in the employment market”, particularly taking aim at tradies.

"People decided they didn't really want to work so much through Covid and that has had a massive issue on productivity," he said.

"Tradies have definitely pulled back on productivity. They have been paid a lot to do not too much in the last few years, and we need to see that change."

Yahoo Finance spoke with a Sydney plumber today about the hard work, early mornings and 15-hour days he puts in as a tradie and what he thought about Gurner's remarks.

Sydney plumber lifts lid on tradie life
A Sydney plumber has lifted the lid on what it's like to grind as a tradie.

“People have this misunderstanding that you can just become a tradie and make money, but it’s definitely not like that. You’ve got to put in the effort, put in the hardship,” Alex Taskun said.

Young people’s frivolous spending blasted

It’s not the first time the 40-year-old Millennial has taken aim at younger people.

In 2017, the Rich Lister claimed the demographic prioritised buying “smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each” over saving to invest in property as he had.

“I spent every night on my hands and knees sanding back the floors, painting, renovating and working on the house,” he told 60 Minutes.

“When we sold it, I used the small profits of $12,000 to purchase my next property and it all grew from there.”

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