Millionaire CEO who said there needs to be higher unemployment to punish 'arrogant' employees, apologizes

An Australian business executive drew heat for comments he made during a property summit earlier this week in which he suggested that people need to be more grateful for their employers and that rising unemployment is necessary to increase productivity in the workplace.

Tim Gurner, a multi-millionaire CEO of Gurner Group, a real estate company founded in 2013, said at a conference that COVID-19 created a work culture in which employees' attitudes and work ethic deteriorated. Gurner suggested that the country's current unemployment rate of 3.7% should rise by 40-50% to reduce "arrogance in the employment market."

"There's been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them," Mr Gurner said. 

"We need to see pain in the economy. We need to remind people they work for the employer, not the other way around," Gurner continued.

A video of Gurner's statements quickly went viral prompting outcry from millions of social media users. 

Shortly after Gurner made his statements, he went on to post on LinkedIn saying he "made some remarks about unemployment and productivity in Australia that I deeply regret and were wrong".

"There are clearly important conversations to have in this environment of high inflation, pricing pressures on housing and rentals due to a lack of supply, and other cost of living issues. My comments were deeply insensitive to employees, tradies and families across Australia who are affected by these cost-of-living pressures and job losses," Gurner wrote. 

This is not the first time Gurner has faced heat for out-of-touch comments. 

In 2017 in a "60 Minutes" interview, Gurner said that the reason millennials could not afford homes was their habit of buying avocado toast.

"When I was trying to buy my first home I wasn’t buying smashed avocados for 19 bucks and four coffees at $4 each," he said.

All this despite the fact that even at $19 a day, avoiding avocado toast for an entire year would only save you about $7,000 — much less than the down payment on most homes.