Monday, January 26, 2009

How much does it cost to do nothing?

I have decided to write another letter to RailCorp regarding this bridge in Lilyfield.  I've been trying to get RailCorp to clean it for nearly 7 months, and as you can see, I've failed utterly.

I am going to write to them and ask them to calculate what it has cost to do nothing.  RailCorp employs a number of people to deal with this sort of correspondence - I imagine they are earning $60,000+.  Their manager is probably earning over $100,000.  When you add on-costs of at least 30% (for rent, furniture, computers, phones and so on), they start to get expensive. 

I'll try to calculate an hourly rate for a letter writer.

Start with 52 weeks, then subtract 4 for leave, 1 for sick leave, then 2 more for RDO's (rostered days off) and 1 for training.  That leaves you with 44 useable weeks per year.  Assuming a 35 hour week, that means a letter writer "writes" for 1540 hours per year (which is not really true, since 30-40% of the working day is lost in meetings, coffee breaks, going to the toilet, staring out the window and so on).  If we leave that "wastage rate" out for the moment, and assume a $60,000 salary plus 30% on-costs, and then divide that by 1540 hours, we get an hourly rate of $50.  The manager of the unit would cost double that - $100 per hour.  

If you add in a wastage factor, then the hourly rate for a letter writer goes up to $80 an hour (the amount of time they actually have to write, rather than their total time at work), and the manager is costing $160 per hour.

I have written 3 letters to RailCorp, and had a considered response to each.  Every letter had to be read, entered into the records management system, a response drafted, the draft checked and perhaps rewritten several times before finally being signed and posted.  You could be talking anywhere from 1 to 4 hours per letter, depending on how much wriggling and squirming and non-answering is required.  If we assume that a response to each letter took 4 hours in total, that gives us 12 hours of staff time, or nearly $1,000 in staff costs (assuming $80 per hour).  By the time they give a non-answer to my next letter, the cost will be well over $1,000.

How much would it cost to arrange for a painting contractor to stand on the footpath with a long pole and a roller in order to paint over the worst of the graffiti?  Less than that?

Consider by comparison the approach of the RTA, who have painted and repainted this wall next door perhaps half a dozen times.  The RTA doesn't shirk its responsibility and make excuses - it just takes action and sends out a short email afterwards saying, "Done", which is all I want.

As you can see in the above photo, graffiti has already started reappearing after the most recent coat of RTA paint, and the vandals did their bit for the environment by leaving the empty spray can behind.

They always seem to leave their cans behind - the place is littered with them, and they're so old, they're rusting.  Whilst the RTA is doing a great job of painting over graffiti, it is not doing such a splendid job of picking up after the littering vandals.  But that still puts them a long way in front of RailCorp.

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