The new chief executive of state insurer icare will take home $821,000 a year, in a decision that has been described as an insult to public sector workers.
The new CEO Richard Harding will become NSW’s highest-paid public servant, earning $122,000 more than his predecessor. He will also be eligible for an annual bonus of $410,847.
The pay was set by the icare board, with icare saying Harding’s “impeccable record in leading businesses” will help him address icare’s challenges. He has spent the last 12 years leading New Zealand insurer Tower.
Icare has been at the centre of scandal since it was found to have underpaid thousands of injured workers up to $80 million. The joint report from Four Corners and The Age found insurance agents had been gaming the workers compensation system for financial incentives.
"There's no doubt it's been a turbulent time for icare and I look forward to working with the Board and the executive to ensure we restore public confidence and deliver on key remediation activities,” Harding said.
“I'm heartened by the positive approach of the people of icare, who every day show their passion and dedication to their customers.”
However, unions and the state opposition have described Harding’s salary as “grotesque”.
Unions NSW said Harding’s salary announcement comes as public sector workers in NSW experience a pay freeze which caps wage rises at 1.5 per cent, rather than the usual 2.5 per cent.
"Mr Harding’s salary of $821,694.20 is offensive at the best of times, but when you are asking paramedics, nurses, teachers and other public sector workers to take a pay cut, it’s grotesque and on another planet,” said Mark Morey, secretary of Unions NSW.
“It’s just another kick in the guts to our hardworking public sector workers who found out just before Christmas that they weren’t considered worthy of a pay rise despite keeping us safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He said the salary “beggars belief” and played into a “culture of greed and excess”.
In a tweet, state Labor leader Jodi McKay described it as a “disgraceful use of public money”.
“This [$820,000] could have supported 20 aged care workers for a year.”
Harding will begin working at icare on 18 January.
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