CEO Sparks Backlash By Saying 'We Need 50% Unemployment' To Tame An 'Arrogant Workforce'

He said the quiet part out loud, and his comments have not gone over well with workers.

Australian CEO Theproject | Youtube, Abdulla Hafeez | Canva

Many Americans' attitudes toward work and capitalism have shifted wildly in recent years. We're seeing a new wave of unionization and workers are demanding better pay and treatment from their bosses. 

And it's got one obviously scared CEO actually saying the quiet part out loud — and calling for drastic measures to curb the uprising. 

The CEO is calling for high unemployment to tame workers he thinks have become too 'arrogant.'

Australian property developer and CEO Tim Gurner made his comments at the Australian publication Financial Review's recent Property Summit, a conference focusing on the commercial real estate business. His comments during his presentation on the conference's stage have ricocheted across the internet, shocking people as much for their temerity as for their content.


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It's hard to nail down what the most incendiary thing Gurner said even is. There's the comment he made about how "tradies" — Australian slang for blue-collar professionals like carpenters and electricians who work in the trades — "don't really want to work," seemingly unaware that without "tradies" he'd have no commercial real estate to sell in the first place.


Then there were the comments about how "arrogant" workers have become, and how they need to be reminded who's actually in charge.

No one's expecting someone like Gurner to be joining picket lines of course, but the solutions he proposes show more than just a difference in opinion on what workers are entitled to. His suggestions are downright diabolical — and telling.

Gurner says we need 'pain in the economy' and '40-50% unemployment' to show workers who's boss.

For perspective, 50% unemployment is roughly double the US unemployment rate of 24.9% at the height of the Great Depression, a time when so many people lost their incomes and homes that the country was blanketed in massive tent cities called Hoovervilles named after the President at the time—who lost reelection in a landslide because of it.

To suggest that unemployment should even approach that level, let alone double it, is insane and terrifying in its indifference to the human suffering it would cause. It's downright villainous, something a cartoon character who bathes in a tub of gold doubloons would say. If you pitched it as a punchline in a comedy sketch, you'd be laughed out of the room for being too on the nose.


But, Gurner believes, "we need to remind people that they work for employers, not the other way around." This, he says, is because since the pandemic began, workers have taken on the attitude that employers are "lucky to have them." He didn't specify what exactly he meant by that, but we can easily extrapolate what he's referencing.

Massive waves of unionization in industries like food service. Giant strikes by SAG-AFTRA and WGA members in the entertainment industry, Teamsters members at UPS, and an enormous strike by the United Auto Workers looming within 24 hours of this writing. And of course trends like "quiet quitting" and "acting your wage" in order to demand for better pay and benefits, and intractable labor shortages in certain fields because of employers' refusals to adequately meet those demands. 

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It clearly has people like Gurner running scared. So much so that he even claimed governments have begun creating unemployment in order to scare "arrogant" workers into submission. 


"Governments around the world are trying to increase unemployment to get [these trends] to some sort of normality," he claimed, and he says it's working. "We're starting to see less arrogance in the employment market, and that has to continue."

Gurner's comments have ominous parallels to the US government's own narratives about the economy.

Many felt Gurner was 'saying the quiet part out loud', and his comments left many people online absolutely outraged.

"Some of the most evil people in the world are getting more arrogant," one man tweeted. But another man cast Gurner's comments in more unsettling terms: it's not the comments that should be unsettling, but rather the fact that he's willing to be so transparent about it.

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That take has particular resonance in the United States right now. Yes, wages have risen here in the US, but they have not kept pace with inflation, which has seen prices for nearly everything go through the roof since 2020. Take groceries for example, which typically inflate 2% per year. Between 2020 and 2021, they inflated 11%. From 2022 to 2023, 6%. 

And that inflation has been proven to be at least in part due to corporations simply jacking up prices because they can in a practice that has come to be known as "greedflation." It's such a worldwide problem that even the treasury of the United Kingdom has acknowledged it as real. 

Meanwhile, interest rates, which began the pandemic at roughly 0.25% are now 5.5%, a geometric increase that means everything from buying a car to your monthly credit card interest has skyrocketed by orders of magnitude in just three years — to say nothing of mortgages and home prices, which were already out of reach for the vast majority of Americans before 2020, let alone since. 

But to hear the Biden Administration and other Democratic leaders tell it? As Biden's new 2024 campaign ad tries to convince us, things are going great in America! Employment rates are strong! Wages are up! America is back, baby! 


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That message has of course not resonated with the American public, who deal with the reality of the situation every single time they walk out of the house to buy a pack of friggin' GUM, let alone a grocery or a household appliance or an apartment.

Yet many Democratic leaders and surrogates simply can't figure out where this stubborn disconnect between the economic numbers and public perception is coming from. Why, it's a downright mystery! 


No, it's not. There's no mystery to it whatsoever, and the more they try to insist there is, the more it begins to feel like we're all being gaslit.

Who knows if Gurner is actually telling the truth when he says that governments have essentially begun doing unemployment psy-ops on people to put them back into place, but the notion has an ominous plausibility to it given current events.


And it goes to show that those of us working to change things — from those insisting on raises and fair treatment at work to those currently out of job so we can pound the pavement on picket lines — are on the right track. People like Gurner have just proven the point so many so often try to make — many of the people in charge don't care whether we live or die, they just care about making more and more money.

If you had any doubt about the state of things, wonder no more — the powers that be are saying it plainly and out loud now, in public, with a camera aimed at their face, without an ounce of shame or worry. And that should give every single one of us who works for a living a moment of pause—and more reason to continue the fight toward equity.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.