A prominent Australian property developer, Tim Gurner, CEO of the Gurner Group, has ignited a firestorm of controversy after suggesting that the unemployment rate should be raised to 50 percent, all while making critical remarks about workers’ attitudes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the Australian Financial Review’s Property Summit, Gurner asserted that the pandemic had witnessed a significant decline in productivity, with many people opting to work less. He argued, “We need to see pain in the economy,” directing his criticism toward the work ethic of construction laborers in the post-COVID era. He further emphasized that it was crucial to remind workers that they are employed by their employers, not the other way around.
These comments quickly spread across social media platforms, drawing widespread condemnation from politicians, commentators, and business leaders alike. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized Gurner, highlighting the growing gap between CEO and worker pay, calling him a symbol of the problems associated with unchecked capitalism.
Australian media commentator Mike Carlton chimed in, branding Gurner as representative of rampant greed and an arrogant disregard for the working class. On LinkedIn, Spence Rodgers, CEO of Ihm Luxury, accused Gurner of waging class warfare by advocating for increased worker suffering to protect his own wealth.
During the panel discussion, Gurner argued that a significant increase in unemployment, reaching 40 to 50 percent, would help reverse the productivity decline caused by COVID-19. He claimed that a shift had occurred in which employees believed employers were fortunate to have them, rather than the other way around. Gurner insisted that this attitude needed to be changed and that it could only be accomplished by harming the economy.
Notably, Tim Gurner, with an estimated personal net worth of $600 million, has a history of making provocative statements. In 2017, he famously advised millennials to cut back on expenses, including avoiding “smashed avocados,” if they hoped to afford their first homes.
Australia’s current unemployment rate stands at 3.6 percent, roughly equivalent to 500,000 people. If Gurner’s proposal were to be implemented, it would result in an estimated 250,000 workers losing their jobs. Gurner’s company manages a property and development portfolio valued at $6.4 billion.