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Building Unions History
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Politically incorrect take on industry issues
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An April Update from Avdiev

Welcome to Spring and the threat of nuclear warfare to the North.

Could the “politics of moral panic” – the statues, the burqa and marital laws be replaced by the politics of reality in the media headlines?

One social issue has been dealt with swiftly by the High Court, ruling that the postal vote on one of the dominant issues can go ahead. Dual citizenship is next. Could Canberra now focus on the energy crisis, an improving economy, small business – the employers of over 40% of Australia’s work force and how to help them keeping the people productively employed?

The RBA has left interest rates on hold at 1.5% for the 13th time in a row, but sees improvement in the economy, as well as changes in its structure, unforeseen shocks and the influence of global policies on the Australian environment.

The Nukes

Will he, or won’t he? The North Korean dictator versus the tweeting US President: who will blink first?

Could the Russian President be right in his assessment that North Korea’s moves are designed to remove the sanctions so he can feed his people?

Meanwhile, the latest intercontinental ballistic missile is being made ready … …

Any current European or Middle Eastern crisis pales into insignificance in comparison.

Across the ditch

The Kiwis are in early election mode. The opposition is ahead in the polls, with a bright and shiny new leader as the media darling.

Has a stable government which delivered a healthy surplus and left NZ “relaxed and comfortable” and therefore bored and ready to try a new government again? We Aussies did in 2007, and look at us now!

Back at the Ranch

In a country where everyone except the Aboriginals has foreign ancestry, the High Court is taking its time to decide the dual nationality issues of our parliamentarians. Media joy – more manoeuvres, more posturing, more headlines.

The lowly paid worker in the broader Australian economy may get some welcome relief if the upturn in business conditions and employment translates into wage rises.

There is good news

As the RBA keeps record rates on hold it reports that the effect of the mining slump is coming to an end and foreshadows more benign conditions ahead, despite warnings of economic shocks between 2017 and 2021. Capital expenditure in private industry is rising, wages will follow.

In property, the feel good factor is palpable. Record turnouts of people to property related industry functions indicates the depth and longevity of positive conditions on our patch. There’s lots of action in every market sector.

The Asset Classes

Battles for supremacy, director spills and hostile takeover attempts dominate the listed property sector.

Foreign capital is still chasing our assets, the threat of a nuclear war is not yet a deterrent in the long term plans of the global sovereign funds.

There’s lots of media about a new asset class – “Build-to-Rent”. Heeding the old saying “the second mouse gets the cheese”, when will the discussions end and who will be the first to take the plunge?

The banks’ latest moves in residential lending are keeping mortgage activity at a modest level. Will this help to improve their market reputation?

They are aiding the RBA’s attempts to keep the bubble at bay. Is there still a bubble?

Prices and activity in residential real estate seem to be stable, will they ease?

Show me the Money

Staff shortages continue. The head hunter frenzy, especially in the design and construction markets has speeded up in the last few months.

Outrageous offers to change jobs are out there and are driving up the remuneration of existing staff. Employers are reluctant to lose good people and strive to match the offers.

Avdiev has been engaged on a number of consulting assignments to benchmark executives under threat in a very fast moving market.

It will be interesting to see if the modest pay rise predictions in the March 2017 Avdiev Property Industry Remuneration Report will hold or what effect the market frenzy has had on recent pay reviews.

The Avdiev Survey is underway, and if you have not yet contributed data, please do so before Monday 11 September. Click to contribute.

There are many other pay issues in our industry.

It’s not only the major players who are facing pay disputes which we have been asked to resolve. The politics of envy are alive and well among the minnows.

As companies grow and prosper disputes arise when remuneration needs to move to reflect the hard work and success of the chief. Issues such as sibling rivalries, many voices with differing points of view, attacks on the CEO’s level of reward, succession planning, retention, promotion and pay disparities emerge.

As independent property remuneration consultants with a wealth of salary and incentive data gathered from employers in all market sectors, we find totally impartial solutions acceptable to all parties – until the next family tiff or the next pay review.

At the top

Reports have emerged about the trend for reduction in pay for CEOs in major global companies. Outcries about the level of reward paid to recently departed CEOs of Australian top companies has increased resentment about the disparity in pay between the fat cats and the underlings.

There’s renewed debate about incentives, bonuses, retention payments and the criteria for such perks. Have incentives become an as-of-right expectation for meeting targets or should they be reserved for targets exceeded?

As the AGM season for ASX listed companies heats up and proxy advisors encourage major investors to vote against director and executive remuneration, ASIC the regulator, concerned about market destabilisation, has warned the proxy firms to curb their enthusiasm for negative advice.

Last but not least – The Women

Gender and pay differentials are still hot button issues. Among other entities Male Champions of Change, including those in property, are making valiant efforts to bridge the gap. But so far there is no clear evidence that feel good platitudes are showing quantifiable results that can be touted as a measure of real success.

The Inequality Issue

Following the Republican win in the US, the latest election result in the UK highlights the malaise and disenchantment of voters feeling left behind in the wealth stakes. Another terrorist attack in London has focused minds on the future. In an unprecedented and militant show of electoral interest and resentment, young British voters are reported to have come out and voted for populist promises of free education and other unattainable but seductive proposals.

Apart from the North – South divide which produced Brexit and the traditional class divide they are the group most feeling the inequality between the haves and the have nots. They most resent the baby boomers who came into a workforce to be offered plenty of job choices, opportunity to save, buy property and create a new social order.

A trip through history

It was 50 years ago today and the baby boomers’ social and moral revolution freed up society, gave us the Beatles’ Sergeant Peppers album, the founding of the Rolling Stone magazine, the first Wonder Woman movie and many more firsts.

At home, the 1967 Aboriginal Referendum created a new awareness of our obligation to recognise their place in our nation, but has not gone much further than lip service, even in times of prosperity. Australia’s had 26 years of continuous growth, even though the last lap was an anaemic 0.3% quarterly rise to produce a 1.7% annual uplift. We have now beaten the Dutch to hold the world record.

So why is no-one celebrating?

There’s a feeling of despondency and resentment here, encouraged by the media. Bad news is click bait. Wages in the general work force have stagnated, savings are being depleted to keep up with rising prices, retail spending fluctuates with changes in consumer sentiment and there’s growing resentment of the gap between the fat cat’s pay at the top of corporations and the average wage.

The casualisation of work and the threats it brings to the duration and security of employment, as well as the opportunities for scams, fraud and loss of income is weighing heavily on workers’ minds.

Shareholder revolts, Board attitudes to incentives revised in response and sluggish economic growth will bring changes at the top.

What about the rest?

Inequality is real but some of us are more equal than others.

For the time being, the property industry is living a charmed life. In a period of strong asset development and transaction activity we’ve had pay growth well above the rest of the general work force. In some pockets of the industry where there are shortages of competent staff, head hunter promises range from 10% to 20% salary increases to change jobs.

The modest pay rises forecast by subscribers to the latest Avdiev Property Industry Remuneration Report © may have to be substantially revised to accommodate the reality of competition for talent, push for more by an impatient team and the threat of losing the best performers.

The latest bank business survey reports an upbeat view of the Australian economy. That’s good for property.

With the building sector in construction phase competent and already well paid project managers and engineers are at a premium and with infrastructure ramping up will be a highly desirable pool of top talent to be sourced at any price.

The need to keep the team together will beat the need for pay moderation any time, for now.

What the next phase will bring depends on ongoing foreign investment and its availability, domestic industrial activity and / or peace and global influences on our economic growth.

But even within a prosperous industry there is an established hierarchy of status and remuneration levels. It’s the old food chain. The Funds are still at the top, controlling the flow of money cascading down into the ranks below.

They cleared out their middle ranks in the years following the GFC and are now enjoying rising asset prices, relatively secure income streams and stable, well paid teams.

Developers are paying well – they need operatives who can cope with growing demands from a sluggish bureaucracy, especially in NSW where Council amalgamations have created a hiatus in approval processes, promised to be resolved soon by the State government.

Aged Care and Retirement Living is the growth sector, their property people are rewarded above the carers who are among the lowest paid employees in the country.

Despite softness in consumer spending the Retail sector needs to continue its upgrade and redevelopment programs to stay competitive.

Real Estate Agents have enjoyed a period of busy transactional activity in all real estate sectors.

There is a hierarchy too among the consulting professions servicing their industry masters.

The technical consultants – Project Managers, Cost Consultants and Engineers have an expertise respected by their clients and reward their staff accordingly. Architects, once a revered profession have lost their standing over the years.

The media is airing the gripes and worries of young architects who, after many years of study are still earning the lowest pay among their industry peers. This is a legacy issue, too many graduates from Schools of Architecture, employer fees impacted by successive recessions and not recovered in good times, and the entry of a new profession into the Australian construction hierarchy have kept them at the bottom.

Enter the Project Managers

Superimposed on the design and construction process in the 1970s by a frustrated Federal bureaucrat as the solution to architects’ inability to manage and control finance and builders’ low quality products, this US import has acquired power and stature often well above their level of competence.

Not even the emergence of “starchitects” can recover this slide in status for the rest of the profession.

What hope for equal pay for women?

And then there’s the gender pay parity issue. In every market sector of property, the pay gap exists. In the general economy, the pay differential is reported as 17%, in Government the latest figure is 8%. What is it in ours? Will women ever catch up and who’s going to help them?

There is one level playing field – non-executive directors’ Board fees. The Avdiev ASX Non-Executive Directors’ Fees Reports give the collegiate fees – equal regardless of gender, ethnicity or age.

Proposals in the UK for reporting gender pay disparity by companies with 250 plus employees are mooted. What will this name and shame incentive achieve?

An April Update from Avdiev

Welcome to April. Our weather continues its historic pattern of droughts and flooding rains with an occasional cyclone thrown in to remind us who’s boss of Australia’s climate.
The North East of Australia has experienced the worst in 60 years, people and livestock have died in the aftermath, much damage has been done to buildings and infrastructure. But natural disasters keep money moving through the economy – builders, tradies, retailers, bridge and road works will get going, government assistance will help.

There is good news too. The RBA has kept rates on hold, the Federal Government is inching forward in its battle with the Senate. Could growth and jobs be the result of a reduction to company tax rates? Will business respond by expanding and hiring, or will they wait until the uncertainty about the fate of the cuts, the energy crisis and other nasties are resolved? Are they scared of the scare campaigns to come?

We’re part of the global community.

It’s not so benign on the global scene. Syria is deadly and unresolved, the EU’s migrant policy is now referred to as the Trojan Horse in other parts of Europe. North Korea is flexing its nuclear muscles. Terrorist attacks in London and St Petersburg unsettle the population, Brexit has begun, the new American president is nearing 100 days in office – what has been achieved?

But the consensus of the global economists is that the first world’s financial problems are easing and that more central banks will abandon the zero interest rate policies imposed in the wake of the GFC.

What more can Australia do to its tax, productivity and industrial relations to become globally competitive?

The workers are restless.

Employees in the general workforce in private industry are crying out for a pay rise - their wages have been stagnating for several years. Public sector remuneration has risen steadily during that time. The property industry has been lucky, we are a market sector with strong activity, a constant flow of foreign investment money and a shortage of good staff.

But in other markets whose time has gone conditions are grim. In a time of economic transition and disruption, jobs are destroyed, become obsolete, or are re-designed for new skills which old economy workers can’t or won’t learn in time to get one of the “new collar jobs” – a term coined to fit the new reality of work.

With the closure of power stations, bans on gas extraction and logging, there is great social upheaval. New environmental and social values have impacted many regional communities. It’s possums versus people, heavy industry workers versus greenies in Gippsland.

It’s hard to turn a logger into a barista, but how long before the pleasure of human interaction at the coffee shop disappears into a niche full of buttons to press for your selection?

The new jobs in the new economy are digitally based, and may not last long in a rapid pattern of work disruption, which may end up being automated.

When that happens, can one expect a robot to pay tax? How will governments collect revenue to survive? Could this spell the end of the cash economy?

The bubble – or the debt?

It’s back, but it never went away. With reassuring messages from the pundits - “it’s different this time, it’s only Sydney and Melbourne, the foreign investors will keep the market going” – concerns about the size of household and property debt receded for a while.

No more. With warnings about the dire effect of the growing debt on the economy, the RBA is leaving our record low interest rates on hold – its choices are: cool the residential market and bust the households, or leave rates on hold and watch the bubble grow.

At last the banks are beginning to remember the lessons they should have learnt after the last few property downturns. Will higher LVRs, caps or bans on investor lending kick in in time to prevent another rout in the market and allow an orderly fall to pre-bubble prices on the East Coast? None of the other states and regions are facing the same problems. But once the warnings outnumber the reassurances, it’s déjà vu all over again.

Confidence in residential property markets is a fragile thing. Home and apartment building makes a significant contribution to the economy. Curbs on foreign ownership could speed up the downward slide.

Supply and demand

The laws of supply and demand apply to employment too.

While the commercial / industrial sectors remain robust, employees are assured of a job. But with employers showing a strong preference for part time and short term positions, their jobs may not be as secure or well paid as before.

Subscribers to the latest Avdiev Report have reported that property people engaged in work requiring cognitive skills are rewarded above the general workforce average. And there is a significant differential between the seniors and the digi savvy, nimble juniors, especially in market sectors short of capable employees.

It’s not only technical capability that is valued now, but social skills and personal attributes that include good communication and cultural values.

So what will happen at the next pay reviews? Will women’s pay start an upward move to reward their softer skills?

The women

A bank has issued a gender equality bond to provide funding for the businesses that will champion gender equality. Will a woman administer the funds? The Prime Minister and his wife have funded a Women in Built Environment Scholarship established by the University of NSW to increase the number of women in leadership roles in the industry.

The Property Council has again elected a woman as its President for the next two years.
The Master Builders Association has appointed a woman as Federal CEO to support two female State Presidents. Will this make a difference to the culture of conflict and control in the building industry?

A woman has been elected Secretary of the ACTU. As its first female head, she seems intent on continuing the rich tradition of civil disobedience stating that she has no problems with workers breaking “unjust laws”.

What’s the prognosis for the interaction between the women on both sides of the CFMEU fence? If nothing else, it will be interesting to watch.

A New Year Update from Avdiev

Has there ever been a more exciting start to a new year?

The US election result has shaken up the world. It’s polarised the American people, global leaders are treading carefully in their response. Has Australia had a win with the refugee resettlement deal, or is that still uncertain?

Is the American President a total disaster or a refreshing change?

It’s a new scenario of post truth politics, alternative facts, fake news, a gun totin’ President who tweets from the hip keeping everyone guessing and the media busy – he’s their gift that keeps on giving.

Meanwhile, there’s Syria. The refugees in the Mediterranean on leaky inflatables, European border skirmishes, the rise of right wing nationalism and populism in the EU have lost the spotlight.

The Brexit fall out continues, the fall in the exchange rate has helped tourism and exports in Britain. What will it mean for the people who voted to leave?

Better news at home

Australia continues on its uncertain path in a transitional economy. There’s disruption everywhere – prop-tech – replacing real estate agents with technology, the gig economy, cyber warfare, the stock market fluctuations.

But overall, the news is positive. The RBA has identified a new Aussie battler subsector – the “hand to mouth households”, and, seeing an upturn at the end of the year, has left interest rates on hold again. The record trade surplus is a welcome surprise, residential property prices in Sydney and Melbourne remain strong. No rate cuts needed here.

But mortgage stress reports are rising, the banks are nudging up mortgage rates to protect themselves from defaults and their shareholders from lower returns. Some are cutting new investment loans, others are seizing the opportunity to grab market share.

Federal Parliament has resumed, a government senator has resigned to form his own party, another mini-rebel for the cross bench, the ideological and class warfare continues, the Prime Minister has found his inner mongrel and the Aussie debt just keeps on rising.

Has the Senate used the Christmas break to consider the fate of our economy and decided to put it ahead of their single issues focus and the need to preen for the media? It seems the watered down ABCC bill will get its teeth back.

On the Regional fly around

It’s still an East West divide.

Perth has always lived and died with the mining industry. It’s dealing with the 4th year of transition in its economy and the consequent commercial space oversupply. Darwin too has more than it needs, bullish predictions can lead enthusiastic developers astray.

NSW is still the stand out state. It has the lowest vacancy rates, a new popular Premier, well regarded for her energy, persistence and ability to get things done as Transport Minister and Treasurer.

Victoria – the state of tragedy. The Bourke Street massacre – one man in a red car, 6 pedestrians dead, many more injured, Melbourne is in mourning. It also leads Australia in car theft, jackings, aggravated burglaries and teenage prison riots. Victorians are angry and frightened, the human rights focus of the laws has lost its shine here, detracting from the Vic Government’s success in removing the detested level crossings.

South Australia – the State of Energy crisis. Renewables no longer cut it here as an energy source and solution. Major industries are at stake. Close your eyes and pray for the wind to blow, but not too hard!

Queensland – there’s lots of sunshine, but is there any action here, or will there be more enquiries? The job losses in the regions are severe. Will there be a snap election soon?

Tasmania – Clean and green. Can it grow to become the future food bowl of the Asian region? MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, funded with private gambling proceeds, continues Hobart’s arts led recovery. Having re-invigorated the tourist industry and waterfront restaurants it is planning a major expansion on Macquarie Point. Can the owners continue keeping the bureaucrats at bay to achieve their goal?

The property sectors

The property investment community.

This is where the small fish funds get swallowed by bigger fish, until a whale comes along and another merger or acquisition is done. Landlords are doing well at least and are being warned not to get too greedy, tenants have long memories. Local buyers for prime property are outbid by foreign capital. We are a safe haven.

The developers

Development site price rises make it hard for new developments to stack up, the banks are cutting back on loans and raising cost of debt, mispriced residential product is not selling well and the cost of good staff is climbing.

Retirement living / aged care

The growth sector, the population is getting older, the oldies hold most of the wealth and demand good quality living and care when they retire. Long term profitability is this aim here.


Over all, retailers had a good Christmas, but medium size fashion retailers are going into administration. The landlords are not worried, new overseas brands entering the market will take up the retail space.

Real Estate

Are residential agents an endangered species? Lots of disruption here. Digital real estate platforms are eating into suburban agents’ territory. They are cutting commissions to attract listings, their customers have voted with their feet and are shopping for property on line. The major agents are buying up smaller boutiques with specialised skills. A sector in flux.

Built environment consultants

This sector provides services to investors and developers who call the shots and its financial heath and levels of activity depends on them and the property development cycle. Consultants are also questioning their role and power in the industry. Is it waning?


Having ended 2016 with disappointment at the watered down ABCC legislation, the change of heart by one of the Senators during the Christmas break has given builders and their subcontractors new hope for a more peaceful work environment this year. There’s hope for a broader review of industrial relations generally. Meanwhile, building activity is slowing, but salaries are rising.

Finance, Corporate and IT – The Back Room

Lots of disruption here. This is where digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) will have most impact. Last year’s cute robot receptionist in a CBD foyer took our fancy. In 2017 an industry superfund is outsourcing customer service but not to an offshore provider. Roger the Robot a well programmed specialist is ready to help with your enquiries.

The Avdiev Report

Property is a dynamic industry. It grows, diversifies, changes, innovates and adapts to disruption.

We monitor, survey, collate and publish salary data and business feedback from our subscribers in the industry. In response to their requests we add new market sectors, new positions as they emerge and make changes as needed. The 2017 Avdiev Report to be published in mid March, has been extensively redesigned, contains 50 new positions, new detailed salary tables and over 20,000 incumbents in 10 market sectors.

The survey period is ending on 15 February. Please contribute your salary data now to get a 50% discount on the full price of the Report. You’re not alone in leaving it till the last minute, we’ve just had an influx of builders looking for a benchmark for their teams. Please do it now. CLICK HERE

Fat cat news

In response to community pressure and some interesting revelations about travel expenses, the Prime Minister has started to axe parliamentary entitlements. The Gold pass for MPs has gone. What’s next?

He’s also objecting to the $5.6 mil remuneration paid to a public servant – the highest pay in an Australian government business. The inequality of such pay with the rest of the community is glaring and changing attitudes and ambitions. Remuneration at the top end has been in the spotlight this year. The annual report season has seen a push for moderation in senior executive pay from shareholders. Overseas, investment banker bonuses have been under pressure. New global entrants into the local investment market intend to play a vital part in setting parameters around pay for performance, focusing on long term gains, not short term results.

The diversity argument

There’s gender diversity, cultural diversity, what about social diversity?

Snobbery is the elitism that dare not speak its name.

But it’s been sprung. A UK Report “Working class professionals earn 17% less than their peers” (FT 28.01.2017) points out UK’s social mobility pay gap.

What about Australia? Are you an ethnic? From the wrong side of the tracks? Did you go to the right school, play the right sport, make the right connections early in your school and working life? If you did, you’re in a board room at the top end of town right now.

Sisters are kicking goals

In footy mad Melbourne, the first match of the new women’s Australian Rules League (AFLW) attracted a lockout crowd. Will their Grand Final in March be held at the MCG? What’s the pay differential between them and the boofy blokes going to be?

A Christmas Update from Avdiev

One, two, three – what are we waiting for?

The end of the year. It can’t come soon enough. It’s been a long and tumultuous one. 2016 gave us Brexit, the DD election in Australia and the never expected but oh so obvious (in hindsight) election result in the US.

Referendums are dangerous! Ask the people what they want and they tell you. The Italian Prime Minister has just resigned, the South Korean President has been impeached. An emboldened Taiwan phoned the American President-elect and shock horror!!! He took the call.

The rise of the deplorables
It was so easy once … … The electoral pendulum swings were predictable. Progressives on the left making social change while blowing the budget, the reactionaries brought in to fix the fiscal mess and restore stability - oh so boring! But in the increasing polarisation the middle ground got left behind in the rise of technology, globalisation and disruption, the decline and fall of manufacturing, stagnating incomes and job losses.

In a democracy a vote is a weapon – the deplorables (a new name, weren’t they the plebs once?) rose up and changed the world order.

‘Tis the season to be jolly
The property industry has done well this year despite the bubble worry and the multi-mode, multi-speed economy, divided along resource based and geographic lines – improving in the West, still good in the East, with banks under pressure to increase loan rates and deposits for residential property. Commercial property vacancies have fallen, the REITs continue their takeover battles, viable development is still robust, retirement living is improving in health, the real estate agents have done well, and the whole property industry has been lamenting the shortage of good people.

Avdiev research shows that, unlike the rest of the working community, property overall got a 3% pay rise in the last salary reviews with some spectacular spikes in areas where staff shortages are still acute. New remuneration initiatives are reported to be the focus of many of our survey respondents with incentive structures and performance targets being reworked and fine-tuned. Our commissioned research has been called on to provide feedback on incentive practices in the built environment and development sectors. The latest results of the Avdiev Survey, just concluding, will reveal the latest moves and trends.

The AGM season has not been too jolly for the fat cats at the top of the listed companies. Their shareholders got restless, not much joy in the dividends this year, proxy advisors stirred the pot and strikes against remuneration reports increased this year.

There is good news

Keep the glass half full and be grateful that we’re in Oz, not in the Middle East, the EU or Eastern Europe. Australia, the lucky country, is still lucky but only just.

It does not deserve it. The Federal Government limped to the end of the parliamentary sitting year with a few modest wins. The double dissolution bills scraped in with serious modifications, time will tell if they will help the building industry and its clients. The farmers got a definite back packer tax at last, but the struggles in the Senate to get there exposed the levels of power, pragmatic attitudes and intellectual capacity of the new senators. The Aussie credit card keeps ticking up debt. The budget deficit is now $37 billion.

The international word of the year
Post-truth, often associated with politics, has been the Oxford Dictionary’s choice for 2016. Defined as “if it feels right it must be true” it’s been a universal tool employed by election candidates, trolls on social media and the creators of fake news on special websites. Our own “Mediscare” campaign worked a treat here. Did it fool the deplorables?

The workforce is our future Australian education got a wake up call this year. A woeful global scorecard for our secondary school students, on a par with Kazakhstan has revived the debate about the quality of our education and what to do about it. Is it teacher quality, curriculum content, lack of or misdirected funding or student engagement that is the cause?

The lack of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) give property academics lots of grief, especially at first year university level. Remedial courses sort out some of the problems, but the attitudes to learning and the push for teaching as infotainment take a while to subside.

Much credit must go to the RBA’s research into skills needed for the future workforce. With manual jobs in decline, or under threat from automation, it is the cognitive skills that will be the desirable feature of the employee of the future, especially the non-routine ones like design and aged and health care work. The property industry uses and needs those skills and will have to teach the young if their tertiary education does not suit the way we work.

With the Australian population equally split between government employees and welfare recipients and private sector taxpayers, how much of the tax burden may fall on us? Property is the obvious cash cow to replace the magic pudding economy mirage that is only slowly fading under the threat of a credit downgrade. Will we lose our AAA rating?

A new report for the Foundation for Young Australians has added to the skills debate, with its research into skills required by employers, defining seven job clusters in which a basket of closely related and portable skills will enable job mobility and career durability, a great opportunity for property.

The generators – high level of personal interaction skills – for retail, sales, hospitality, and more
The artisans – manual skills for construction, production, and maintenance
The carers – they are essential for the retirement living and health care industries
The co-ordinators – working in administration
The designers – every facet of design is essential for property and in daily use
The informers – working in information, education and business services
The technologists – the geeks with high level digital and technological skills.

Each cluster offers a number of career choices and many have been identified.

Give the kids a job
My annual plea. We were all new graduates once. How did we get started? Someone kind tucked us in at the bottom of the pile, hoping that we would learn from our mistakes, as they occasionally had to crack the whip. And we did.

There’s a fresh batch ready to be beaten into shape. They will learn and they will develop the needed skills. They are the future of our industry. Go for it, with a bit of tough love they will come good.

Women are making progress
Gender diversity has risen in priority in the property industry. Research from Avdiev’s Women Business Leaders in ASX Property Companies, identified that there has been a 9% increase in women directors and senior management in the 18 months since our 2015 report was issued. This is a substantial change but lags behind the 12% increase seen in the new edition of the Women Business Leaders in ASX Top 300 Companies, drawn from all industry sectors.

The High Court of Australia has its first female Chief Justice.

The Master Builders Association has two female state presidents in ACT and Victoria.

A woman conceived the “Mediscare” campaign.

Gender equality is on the way. It also gives women permission to use men’s language (Financial Times 10.12.16). What a relief – my favourite T-Shirt slogan defines stress in totally blokey terms and gives me great comfort and joy when I wear it.

Santa Baby … …
Every year I’ve asked for a gift or three, it’s time to reciprocate.

I see a great opportunity for you – form a union.

Gift givers and joy bringers of the world – UNITE!

Don’t know where to start? WikiHOW will tell you. Your global colleagues – Papa Noel, Dun Che Lao Ren, Did Moroz and Noel Baba – could get together, co-opt the others and spread some comfort and joy around the world this Christmas. It’s sorely needed.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings and a productive, innovative and prosperous New Year. We look forward to sharing in your success.

A November Update

It’s good to come home.

Despite the local gripes and worries Australia is still the place to be, especially in the prosperous states on the East Coast.

The pollies are squabbling, the Senate is in a state of flux, the media, having hyperventilated about minor issues, is polarising along political lines and the Aussie credit card is clocking up debt at an exponential rate.

The rating agencies are circling, the RBA admits that cutting interest rates has not had the desired effect of stimulating the economy – the inflation rate is rising slowly but the economy is still below par.

The voters, realising that the magic pudding economy was a mirage, have now accepted that something must be done to reign in the debt but have gone into “economic NIMBY” mode – cut, cut, cut but not MY benefits.

Recent reports that Australia is evenly divided into 50% taxpayers and 50% public servants and welfare recipients are sobering statistics. The population is aging, the ratio will change, how will Australia respond?

But keep the glass half full. It’s worse elsewhere.

Over there

The EU is grappling with the refugee crisis and the rise of far right political parties. Then there’s the Brexit problem and new geopolitical moves in Eastern Europe.

German women are buying pepper spray at the chemist to carry in their handbags, young refugee men are striding the streets in threes and there is an undercurrent of disquiet in the country. Austria’s border control and fences seem to be working, but for how long?

The UK’s vote to leave the EU has divided the country along rust belt lines. The disenchanted post industrial North voted to go it alone. The prosperous South East will continue to do well, the fall of the pound has been good for tourists, London property and the foreign buyers, but the North has no future proof industries and may bear the brunt of its decision.

The Middle East and its competing power plays shows no signs of stabilizing.

The US has its own problems – the presidential election has thrown up sharp divisions – along racial, income and work opportunity fault lines, together with unexpected developments in candidate backgrounds. The global stock markets are sharply lower in response.

It’s good in property

After a quick post GFC recovery, business conditions in all Australian property markets have been steadily improving.

In the latest Avdiev Survey of property and construction remuneration activity, 82% of data contributors report doing well or very well in the current business climate, better than the last survey. New positions are being created – new work is coming in, new clients and projects are being acquired, new skill sets are needed to meet changing demands.

All market sectors are reporting the upswing, especially those where expertise and success relies on applying cognitive skills identified by the RBA as essential for the workforce of the future. It’s here that there are spikes in pay rises, above the usual property median, in itself higher than the CPI.

The economy – which economy?

There are many. There is the Gig Economy , short term, part time casual work fast gaining traction among the Avdiev Report’s contributors – property industry employers, some with already 100% casual junior employees, others with 50% short term mid level staff. The overall intention is to double the number of junior casual staff next year.

For employers, short term gigs are a guilt free opportunity to meet Gen Y (new name – Millennials) property professionals’ need for rapid career change.

The Digital Economy

Defined as an economy based on digital computing technologies (Wikipedia) it’s the economy of and on the internet, with supporting infrastructure – hardware, software, conducting e-business, providing services, among them digital design and facilitating e-commerce such as on line sales.

It evolves daily. Social Media, internet search and other new developments will add complexity, opportunity and scope to grow.

This is where the start up economy begins to kick in. Small operators, seizing the opportunity to develop new tools and services, are the new market for companies with innovative property solutions. Work spaces for start ups are a growth subsector of investment, property management, and service provision.

Then there’s fintech, technology based businesses that compete against, enable and/or collaborate with financial institutions (JASSA 2016 Issue 3), bitcoin and its derivatives, and other new economies not yet developed. But here’s the rub! All these economies have a common need, and it’s growing.

Energy Supply

Energy security is essential for all of the above as well as daily life. Is there enough sun and wind to abandon non-renewable energy sources? Coal fired power stations are closing. Can the energy transition keep up with the growth and speed of change in the new economies, or are we in danger of a world at a stand still? Which treat is bigger – energy or cyber security?

Trigger Warning – The Bubble

Who needs protection from the harsh reality that what goes up must come down?

The RBA is watching the residential property market very carefully, keeping interest rates on hold, urging caution and sounding warnings. The Banks have tightened residential property lending, especially for apartments. Apartment building has slowed, approvals are down.

The property commentators are still divided, but slowly beginning to develop a hesitant note in their predictions. Be alert but not alarmed is the current message.

The property spruikers have switched their advice from buy, buy, buy to sell, sell, sell!

The Sydney residential market is logging record sales figures, but for how long?

Is residential property at an inflection point? Will the bubble deflate slowly or burst with a bang? If it explodes, there’s nowhere to hide. No safe spaces available.

But at this stage, it’s only residential property posing a major threat of a downturn.

Other Australian property is still a highly desirable asset class, very attractive to large global investors and sovereign wealth funds. We have political stability and a well educated work force servicing the assets with good potential for growth.

The future of the workforce

RBA research has been impressive on this issue.

There’s good news and bad news – manual jobs including construction, mining and manufacturing are in decline. Old economy industries are slowly disappearing, leaving workers around the world without jobs and with obsolete skills not fit for the new economies.

Their frustrations are reflected in global political developments – Brexit, the sharp division of voter sentiment in this week’s US election. We have our own problems – coal fired power stations facing early closure, no alternatives ready to take over.

The good news is that property jobs use non-routine cognitive skills, especially in retirement, aged and health care sectors and design and other creative activity. Many back room jobs can be automated, and even some low level human contact jobs may suffer the same fate. Can robots replace people in the property industry? Wal k into an office building foyer in Sydney to be greeted by a cute robot receptionist, female of course, ready to assist with your enquiries.

Let’s not forget the women.

There’s progress here! Gender diversity has risen up the priority scale of property companies, with targets, quotas and ambitions well up on a year ago.

 A 9% increase in women directors and senior managers has been identified by our research into Women Business Leaders in ASX Property Companies and 12% in the ASX Top 300 Companies.

However, what are the career prospects for the majority of women in property whose jobs can be automated and robotised – the receptionists, administration staff and other low paid routine jobs?

Have faith. Women are adaptable, imaginative, creative – multitasking is second nature to them. They will be the founders of the start ups of the future, with services and products not yet invented.

The graduates are coming

Every spring a graduate’s fancy lightly turns to finding work. A real job somewhere in our industry, no more shift work in retail or hospitality which has kept the wolf from the door while they’ve been studying.

What do they have to offer us?  What have they been taught? What will you pay them?

Are the property academics ahead of the game in the real world, or are they passing on obsolete knowledge, outdated skills and resisting new, rebellious ideas?

Twenty years ago property began its transition into the capital markets.  Post graduate property education fell into the hands of the finance and investment industry.  It took a long time for our academics to get it and get it back.  The brighter graduates of the 1990s voted with their feet, got the new knowledge and are now at the top of the funds management industry.

In 2016, what does your company offer our newly minted future leaders?  Has your organisation entered the new fast moving and changing world of work or are you still contemplating transition into the unknown?

Consider the prediction that the jobs of the future have not yet been invented.  What skills will be needed to fill them, and will the right attitude determine success in one of these roles?

Apply this to the new jobs recently documented in the media, mainly technology and social media related.  What expertise will fill the positions of Digital Marketing Specialist, Social Media Manager, Chief Listening Officer (a new marketing effectiveness and feedback job), applications related positions, creating, designing, managing, upgrading your special app?  Then there are all those research and data mining jobs scouring public and private cloud storage facilities and services for useful business intelligence.  Will you employ an in-house hacker (AKA intelligence analyst) to tip toe through your competitors’ secrets and scoop up the juicy bits?

Will the new graduates have the skills to fill the new jobs and the creativity, energy and smarts to invent those of the future? You bet, you need to be an upstart to create a start up.

According to the Federal Department of Industry job creation in large companies is cancelled out by their job losses.  It is the young start ups who are the creators of new jobs, 1.6 million of them from 2003 to 2014.  New companies make new jobs, they foster a culture of innovation and flexibility and focus on productivity, exports and sales.  What new jobs has our industry created recently?

That’s what we are asking in the Avdiev Survey which has recently been emailed to our regular contributors and subscribers, together with other questions on business conditions, the gig economy and of course salary movements and new initiatives.  Please become a contributor of salary data, we reward you with huge discounts and useful feedback. Contributors to the survey will receive a free 4 page summary of the general findings of remuneration trends and forecasts for remuneration reviews in the next six months. To participate please click on the link below to go to the survey.

Avdiev Survey

The government wants to kick-start a culture of invocation and start ups.  Labour market flexibility is being praised for creating the new jobs, many of them casual, part time, contract and temporary.  Will the incumbents stay on to become permanent employees as the company grows and business conditions improve? Flexibility means hiring and firing along the way as business fluctuates.

But in a contrarian move the Fair Work Commission has just set a precedent in a decision that permanent employees must have their time as a casual employee taken into account when receiving redundancy payments.

With reports that roughly half of all Australians of working age pay tax and the income of the others comes from welfare, it’s easy to imagine that in time the working and taxpaying population could become resentful. They will have the determination, imagination and new skills to create a new economy, outside the boundaries of current government control.

Fantasy?  Maybe not.  With debt on the Aussie credit card rising fast, and talk of a recession the productive ones may choose to secede. Revolutions happen….

Meanwhile, the kids are knocking on employers doors.  Give the kids a job.  You may have to re-educate them, instil new attitudes, stretch their attention spans and focus their energies on work.  They have the skills you will need.  They are the future of the industry.

Our next ‘Update from Avdiev’ will be full of first hand reports from conditions in Europe and London, Brexit, Common Market disintegration or consolidation and how they are coping with the migrant tsunami when I return. Meanwhile the Avdiev team is on duty as always.

A Winter Update from Avdiev

What a relief! The long election campaign is over.

The voters have expressed their displeasure, the Government just snuck over the line, a majority of one in the lower house must lead to a court challenge to the final recount. There’s been some excitement, we’ve had the Mediscare Campaign, a lack lustre government response, the negative gearing debate and the “pseudo victory lap around Australia” (ABC 7.30 Report) by the loser.

The new single issue motley crew in the Senate is starting to flex its muscles, will they be any easier to deal with than the previous lot? Will they allow the government to reduce the growing national debt? We’ll see a new Royal Commission, not into banking practices, but into Northern Territory detention practices and centres. A serial ex-PM has been denied endorsement for a United Nations post. The share market continues to jump in response to every new development.

But Australia is still the “You Beaut Country”.

Over there

There’s new mayhem in the Middle East, Turkey has joined Syria and the others in their troubles, the flood of refugees continues, so does terrorism in that region and the EU. Borders are being closed, extremist parties are on the rise, tourism has suffered. Americans are preparing to vote. What influence will their choice of president have on world stability and peace? There’s voter malaise around the world. The disenchanted and disgruntled Brits outside of London have voted to exit the EU. Had they considered the consequences before they followed the Pied Piper?

The Prime Minister resigned, and the new PM has made “You Brexit – you Fixit” appointments to cabinet. London’s global financial standing and markets, and especially its once buoyant property markets face an uncertain future. China’s ambitious territorial moves closer to home are unsettling the ASEAN nations.

Is it good for us?

We’re globalised, internet connected and financially integrated with the rest of the world. There may be flow on benefits from all the instability elsewhere.

Australia is perceived as a stable, investable country with not too many obstacles to foreign ownership, an easily accessed world class property portfolio in highly desirable locations, especially on the East Coast.

East side - West side

Property taxes are the income stream that feeds state and local governments. When they fall, problems set in. We’re still in the multi speed economy of transition, bad where mining activity has slowed, good where the service economy has kicked in. Sydney and Melbourne are the hubs of activity, with major new commercial and community developments under construction and in the pipeline?

Will there be a glut of apartments in these two major cities? They are growing rapidly, so perhaps not. Brisbane is being touted as the next residential property growth price potential for investment, but without significant business growth it may not happen. The West is still struggling….

The bubble lives on

The Reserve Bank has just dropped interest rates to yet another historic low in the hope of lowering the A$. How low can one go? What will happen in a global crisis when a serious fiscal stimulus is needed and there’s nothing left in the kitty?

The Australian dollar promptly rose, investors stormed into the share market and property again and the self funded retirees tightened their belts once more.

Not only is the super nest egg shrinking, but it’s also under threat from Government proposals to change the contribution rules, reducing some of the benefits enjoyed to date.

There’s action in the property markets

There have been great changes in property investment and development. Sources of property finance have fragmented and diversified. Three tiers of property lenders, each with different financing criteria and fees, are now in the market to rescue developers stranded mid project by changes in lending policies.

Despite the moves of the major banks to restrict investor lending, there is now private equity, high net worth money and other sources of debt to help keen investors and developers along. This has led to new team structures in the lending environment and the Avdiev Report is being adapted to reflect this new reality.

Developers are joint venturing with HNW entities to fund new projects and purchases. A smart way to avoid nasty surprises mid project. Online lenders are promising 24 hour turnaround for business entities in need of quick cash when slow paying clients are in delay mode.

Superannuation funds are in merger talks to combine member numbers, assets under management, financial clout and market power.

M & A battles continue, with claims and counter claims, increased takeover offers and strategic delays, not always successful.

New listings are in the offing. A new IPO, backed by heavyweight investors has listed. Others are in the pipeline. Crowdfunding for property has taken off. How many start up minnows are contemplating an IPO? Overseas experience turns “unicorns into unicorpses” without investor support and solid cash flows!

Innovation and Disruption

It’s a real threat and it’s coming to attack your tried and true, established business model. Residential property marketing apps allow direct communication between agents and customers, avoiding large market intermediaries.

Building data capture is vital and will be harnessed and sold to those too slow to establish their own data banks. Social media has been one of the original disruptors of mainstream communication.

Blockchain technology – a new system of digital record keeping is on the way, said to be hack proof and indelible. It’s just been hacked. Innovation is profitable for online property exchanges and electronic conveyancing companies, undercutting the traditional intermediators.

Landlords beware. Your small sublets are under threat. The co-working trend, now firmly established in the US in working hubs catering for start ups, freelancers and other self employed workers, lonely and tired of sitting and working at home, is in Australia now and growing fast.

Some are serviced spaces, others carved out of large buildings by smart landlords with retail and coffee shops at ground level. Bright young things drink lots of coffee and like to socialise, exchanging ideas and forming alliances.

What does this mean for the future of jobs and work?

The Gig Economy

Are the unions facing obsolescence? There is no stopping the casualization of the workforce. As old industries die and new ones are established a remix of skills and experience takes place. De-hiring, the new weasel word for getting the sack, is alive and well and coming to get you if you are in a traditional professional service provider role. Commodification of simple tasks is taking over, there are too many consultants, back room offices with boring jobs once replaced by offshoring are now being replaced by robo-solutions – mechanical entities not fighting over EBAs.

Before too long those who survive will be working in jobs not yet invented.

The Avdiev Report

As the property industry grows, diversifies, changes and innovates Avdiev keeps up with new developments and new positions. In response to subscriber requests we have added a number of social media and information technology positions, subsumed the Property Finance market sector into the expanded and restructured Finance and Corporate market sector. The 6 monthly Avdiev Survey has just been emailed. Please contact us if you would like to participate. If you are new to the Survey we would be happy to explain how it works. We ask you to contribute remuneration data and comment on business conditions. If you have newly created positions using innovative skills we would dearly love to know, for these jobs will mean much for keeping the property markets ahead of the business world encroaching on our patch.

So far, property has done well in the salary stakes. We got a 3% median increase in the last pay reviews, more than the 2% in the general workforce. What lies ahead?

There have been pockets of high pay rises for jobs in short supply in development and construction.

The banks are abandoning pay rises linked to sales targets, less pressure may lead to more prudent decisions and longer term horizons. Risky business no more?

What about the women?

Sisters are doing it for themselves, and they are not the perpetually offended ones. Lots of glass ceilings broken, many more to go. Britain’s new Prime Minister, described by a male colleague as a “bloody difficult woman” (NBC News 13 July 2016) is getting on with the job of an orderly exit from the EU. The highly effective Mediscare campaign was conceived by a woman (The Australian 8 July 2016). The new Dean of the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning is a woman.

A new social enterprise model has been established – affordable housing for homeless women and children, owned and managed by women, looking for rental management business with developers to grow their business and the housing portfolio.

But there’s a long way to go. Sexism, harassment, denial of promotion and pay rises still exist. The Champions of Change are doing their best, but are they fighting attitudes or is it a question of “nature or nurture”? Are men born with a sense of entitlement to rule, and women with subservience in their DNA? The arguments go on.

An Autumn Update from Avdiev

The double dissolution, or should that be disillusion election has been called. The shine has well and truly come off the not so new Prime Minister, the opposition leader has a spring in his step, the unions are preparing to flex their muscles again.

Having delivered the budget, with winners and losers as always, the Treasurer says Aussies are over the class warfare and “us and them” rhetoric. He did not go far enough – we’re over the whole political process and media circus – let’s just get the election out of the way and get on with work and life.

We’re facing eight weeks of spin from polarised think tanks, economists and shock jocks. But these are domestic gripes – it’s worse elsewhere.

Look North

The EU still can’t resolve the mass refugee problem and its porous borders, even though its economic situation seems to be improving. Bombings continue in Syria.

Brexit – Britain’s decision to stay or leave is looming. How will the people vote? The populists urge an exit, the pragmatists warn of the consequences of going it alone. With 80% of Britain’s economy dependent on the service sector, local customers may not be enough to sustain economic health.

The American election looms closer. Who will the new US president be? The economy is growing, new jobs emerge, but low wages keep the people surly and resentful and inclined to a populist vote.

Territorial tensions continue in Asia, Chinese investment abroad faces restrictions.

Back in Oz the economic divide is between the healthy service sector economies in the East and the hard yakka states where falling commodity prices bring rising unemployment and property value collapse.

The big city rivalry

Sydney v Melbourne – again/ still - The global city v The sports capital. So many similarities, so many differences.

Both are magnets for foreign investment, both have a healthy economy, dysfunctional planning controls, and infrastructure and transport problems. But the solutions are very different. The NSW government will fund a second harbour rail crossing. Victoria, having abandoned the East West road link at the cost of $1.1 billion, is now focused on removing road and rail level crossings which should have gone a long time ago. What will living next to overhead rail do for the residents of the world’s most liveable city? Shades of Chicago? NSW has completed a review of planning regulations – the latest of how many? What’s the next step? The Victorian Planning Minister has stopped reviewing and started making decisions to allow large CBD developments with foreign funding proceed.

The property bubble

It’s back, the slow leak mended by the Reserve Bank. The RBA has just dropped interest rates to a new historic low, great for borrowers, especially negatively geared investors, another blow for self funded retirees. What will be the unintended consequences on investor behaviour? What impact on welfare needs?

The negative gearing debate is continuing. Removing it was tried and abandoned in the mid 1980s, but that was too long ago for the lessons of history to be remembered. The current government intends to keep it.

A win for the property industry which has been the stand out performer of the Oz economy.

We’ve done well in the pay stakes too. Salary rises in other markets have been low to negligible, property is well ahead. Although the 2016 Avdiev Property Industry Report findings show a 3% median rise overall, under the surface there are stand out market sectors where shortages are severe and the attraction and retention strategies aggressive. Contributors reported massive pay increases and forecasts in development and building companies, for development managers, project managers and architects with 3-D modelling software skills, all in short supply.

There’s been lots of action at the top of the property food chain – the major listed property funds. Profits are up, foreign investment continues. Amalgamations, joint ventures and a spectacular but unsuccessful takeover attempt has resulted in resignations and renewal in the senior echelons of both companies.

Commercial property is doing well, spare space capacity is being absorbed, especially in Sydney. Retail is softening - unseasonal weather, consumer sentiment and sluggish sales impact on rents and yields. Regulation, the availability of local finance and a potential slowdown of foreign funds are a worry for developers, especially for the seasoned ones who have seen it all before. But hope springs eternal for the young ones, they are joint venturing with their sources of capital and looking ahead.

Real Estate has been super busy, at the big end of the property market, and in residential as well. But listing on the stock market is a brave move and does not guarantee success, even if it’s a large franchised residential network and a well known brand name. Time will tell.

The built environment consultants in the active market sectors of property are doing well, but a recent study of business conditions for architects in South Australia tells a tale of woe – fee cutting, low salaries, not enough work. They are not unique, similar conditions exist in other states too, depending on opportunity, specialisations and feral tendering competition.

Some Avdiev News

The 2016 Avdiev Report was published in March and attracted much media attention. We continue our research into directors’ remuneration and have just released the 2016 edition of our ASX Top 300 and Property Companies Directors’ Fees Reports. Our remuneration consulting services are in demand and we are continuing to work with our contributor base on commissioned research into issues such as pay differentials for directors and incentive structures specific to market sectors.

In an increasingly litigious society specialised expert witness expertise is sought after and I’ve continued to write opinions and appear in court. Judges and arbitrators appreciate informed market opinion and evidence based on 20 plus years of published remuneration data for the property and construction industries and the built environment professionals.

The next generation of property leaders

The government has listened to parents, employers and tertiary educators. School funding is to be tied to real results, not just outcomes, in numeracy and literacy achievements tested at Year 1 and Year 12 levels. What a relief all round. Kids will have to learn to fail, preparing them for employment, they may stop looking for “infotainment” instead of real learning when they get to higher learning, a major gripe from the property academics.

It may even reduce the need for all those remedial courses now run to bridge the gap between Year 12 and first year uni capability. Yes, there is hope for our Gen Ys in the future. Meanwhile, another government initiative to cap tax free superannuation funds at $1.6 million has led to news that Treasury expects an investment return of $100,000 for the self funded retiree. Another one of Treasury’s funding fantasies? If that’s true, the whiz kid analyst who ran the numbers needs some remedial numeracy teaching as well as a big injection of common sense.

We're back in cyberspace

The first day of Autumn already! Trust you and your team are powering on, with the rest of the property industry, and not being infected with the gloom of the prophets of doom.

At Avdiev we have overcome our IT systems meltdown, and are now catching up with everything we should have done in February.

  • We could not send out our mass broadcast call for salary data contribution for the Avdiev Report. But it is never too late. If you wish to receive the data contributor discount when you purchase the Avdiev Report, please contribute your data now! Contact us info@avdiev.com.au
  • No IT = no marketing, the lifeblood of any organisation! The Avdiev Property Industry Remuneration Report is at the printers now. It will be published in mid March. There’s an Excel supplement to the hard copy, for your own editing and analysis. The order form is on our website with price details for the Avdiev Report, the ASX NED’s Fees Reports, and the Womens Business Leaders Searchable Database.
  • Our remuneration benchmarking work continues, employers need to keep their teams up to market.
  • With 20 plus years of published salary data for the property, investment and construction industries and built environment professions Rita Avdiev acts as an expert witness in partnership disputes, company liquidation, personal injury and unfair dismissal.
Please call us to discuss and please contribute salary data, it is never too late!