NBN Co shared almost $78 million in “at-risk” – bonus – payments last financial year among 3819 NBN staff, up to three-quarters of its internal workforce.
The numbers, which were first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, were obscurely published by Communications department officials almost a fortnight ago.
They show that internal NBN staff across all pay bands qualified for the extra payments.
Departmental officials said that the “median” payout for 2020-21 “was approximately $14,000”, though for staff whose base salary is $100,000 or less, the average comes out closer to $7500.
That amount quickly scales up, however, for staff whose salaries are in higher bands.
The payment of $78 million in bonuses during Covid-19 was denounced by the senate in February, which narrowly passed a motion agreeing the amounts were “excessive, unreasonable and lacking in justification.”
The senate also called on Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and NBN Co chairman Ziggy Switkowksi “to reign in excessive spending and waste at NBN Co.”
Switkowski, however, later defended the payouts, arguing the NBN survived a major stress test during the pandemic, and that NBN staff should be rewarded for that.
“The public interest, in my view, was always that the network be built, available, reliable, resilient and could be counted upon,” Switkowski said in late March.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to say, ‘Well that doesn’t matter, we were in a Covid environment and therefore everybody should have some modification to their bonuses’.”
NBN Co made at-risk payments to 3819 staff; a count from November last year showed NBN Co had 5420 staff at the time, though 175 of those were contractors and it is unclear if they participate in the bonus scheme.
For its part, the department said that NBN Co had been advised several times by officials around remuneration policies and expectations.
One of those warnings came in mid-December last year, and the department indicated the Minister’s Office also likely contacted NBN Co after that as well on the issue.
NBN Co executives are due to face senate estimates committee questions on Thursday morning.