Author Topic: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it  (Read 34542 times)

mgriffin

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Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« on: November 11, 2008, 05:42:11 PM »
It seems like the economy is in rapid-shrink mode, and huge layoffs are being announced every day.

I'm not too interested in a political blame-assignment discussion about the economy, but I'm curious how many people reading this forum have been touched, or spared, by layoffs.

At my "day job" the discussion came up.  So far we've been able to avoid letting anyone go, and have managed to reduce the workforce almost 25% by attrition.  But now nobody wants to quit, with the holidays coming up, and other jobs harder to come by, so we're having to discuss the possibility of letting some people go soon.  Lots of the other businesses we work with have done huge layoffs, like 25-40% of their work force. 

So, thoughts?
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Mark Mushet

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2008, 06:02:16 PM »
It seems like the economy is in rapid-shrink mode, and huge layoffs are being announced every day.
I'm not too interested in a political blame-assignment discussion about the economy, but I'm curious how many people reading this forum have been touched, or spared, by layoffs.

No effect whatsoever...so far. Most of the "problems" are long overdue for correction though. I mean, it is sick to measure an economy's health by factors such as car sales.

I can't believe unions and entire families jumped into that business in the last few decades and expected to see "business as usual" continue as it was.

SunDummy

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2008, 06:58:40 PM »
The credit crunch has hit our company.  Last spring, we realized we would need a bridge loan to get us through from Nov. '08 to March '09, after which we would be flush.  Thriving, in fact.  So, this summer, we applied for a loan at our bank; they just turned us down this week, saying that they were overextended because of the housing market collapse, and that they were freezing all loan activity. 

Now we're scrambling to find an alternative source of funding.  We may have to lay people off until next March, but we really, really need the staff right now to get the work done until then.  This is gonna be interesting; we may go to half-salary, half-time, or something equally unappealing.   :(

No matter what happens, at least I'm fairly confident that we'll be in great shape next spring, so this is just temporary for me.  Knock on wood.
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avec

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2008, 08:02:33 PM »
I'm very worried right now.  I have saved up just enough money for a healthy down payment (20%) on a condo and am ready to close the deal on Monday.  So I'm preparing to be out a lot of money soon to begin with.  Additionally, just last night USPS has announced possible 40,000 jobs may be cut.  They are offering early retirement for people without incentives.  Not many are foolish enough to bite in a recession such as this.  So the only way for the post office to recoup their losses is to take out the workers at the bottom.  I am the lowest in seniority in my office so I would be the one to go if my office was targeted.

I like my job, work very hard and could see myself making a lifetime out of it.  Needless to say it would break my heart were I to become a victim of economic circumstance. 

« Last Edit: November 11, 2008, 08:07:06 PM by avec »

Joe R

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2008, 08:20:02 PM »
It seems like the economy is in rapid-shrink mode, and huge layoffs are being announced every day.
I'm not too interested in a political blame-assignment discussion about the economy, but I'm curious how many people reading this forum have been touched, or spared, by layoffs.

No effect whatsoever...so far. Most of the "problems" are long overdue for correction though. I mean, it is sick to measure an economy's health by factors such as car sales.


Mark, how is it "sick" to measure an economy's health by car sales? If you said "short sighted" I'd agree, although it's served my state well for a hundred years or so. Granted, by it's very nature, an automobile is a dirty product, but in this society it's also a necessity. Do you drive a car, or ride a bus?

Here in mid-Michigan, my brother is supporting a wife and 3 kids with a white-collar job at a GM plant in Saginaw. He's very afraid for his job right now, what with the dire situation GM is under, especially in the last few weeks. If GM goes into bankruptcy it'll most likely pull Ford and Chrysler under as well, because GM will be selling their vehicles dirt cheap to pay off their creditors. If that happens, the whole world economy will go into the tank much farther than it is now. It won't be just a local thing.

By the way, GM is planning to unveil an electric car in the next few years, if it is still a functioning company.

Dave Michuda

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2008, 10:20:27 PM »
We've been doing the reduction through attrition thing too(just lost 55 years worth of experience in one week).  I work in local TV news & it's starting to get ridiculous.  We've had a ton of people leave but we aren't allowed to replace them.  So then we end up with photographers & editors wandering around with nothing to do because we don't have enough reporters to fill the shows.  I'm beginning to wonder when we will start to kill newscasts because we don't have enough people to do the job.

If we do get permission to hire someone, we have to do it using corporate's latest trick...hire the person as a "freelancer".  That way we don't have to pay benefits.  We offer the carrot of full time employment some time in the future.

You know you're in trouble when management starts talking about the "exciting challenges" that lie ahead and how we will be "creative" with our budgets and how we have to "do more with less".  Yippee!
« Last Edit: November 11, 2008, 10:22:45 PM by Dave Michuda »

jkn

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2008, 09:54:31 AM »
Been scary... Getting a lot scarier.  Hiring freeze except for a very few key positions for quite awhile now.  I'm getting to the point where I need a couple weeks off from bad news, but that isn't looking likely.

The media unfortunately feeds into the fears people have - but also - that's the news people want to know about. 

So yeah - I'm to the point where this is getting really bad - and only seems to be getting worse.   As the problems trickle down through everyone - wow. 

And could someone please get the AIG management fired, please?   If I see another story about management and sales retreats after the bailout - I think I'll through stuffed animals at my tv...  (Don't want to actually hurt the tv!)

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Bill Binkelman

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2008, 10:10:26 AM »
So far, everything at the small private university where I work is status quo. But, since I am in teacher education, if schools start closing or laying off, and the word gets out that there are no teaching jobs, then our enrollment goes down and you can do the math from there. However, I am arguably one of the most entrenched folks here (most admin/support personnel only stay for a few years then leave, as they use this place to get their graduate degrees then leave for greener pastures). I've been here since 1999 and no one knows 1/10th what I do about licensing teachers, so hopefully I would be one of the last to be cut should they start lopping heads.

That said, as a 55 year old white male without a bachelor degree (but with arguably a shitload of business experience and a plenty of office/computer skills), I worry that if it does happen to me, the best I can hope for is going back to temping, which I abhor the thought of. I'm nowhere near ready to retire... probably won't be until I'm 70. So, even though I feel somewhat secure, I still worry about it. Am about to start looking for a second job to pay down some debt.

hjalmer

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2008, 11:07:13 AM »
As VP of Creative Services at a large environmental photo studio in North Carolina, I am worried the housing market will drag down our business further. Advertising budgets are the first to be slashed. Who needs a sofa when food and shelter become paramount. I have had to let go 11 people so far, some with a lot of talent. Looks pretty bleak ahead. Save mode in our house.     H.

mgriffin

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2008, 11:11:37 AM »
What hjalmer says about "save mode" is another side effect of what's happening, which is that even those of us who are fully employed, and financially just as well-off as ever, start to spend less at times like this.  That "hunkering down" that happens stunts the economy still further, as people who don't have money can't spend, and people who DO have money hold on to what they have.
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SunDummy

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2008, 11:40:23 AM »
Another aspect that's hurting me is that the credit freeze is killing the housing market.  My house in WI has been on the market for 14 months, with no end in sight.   And I'm priced well below appraised value.  We have had viewings, but in the last 2 months, absolutely no activity.  There is one couple who really want the house, but when the housing market collapsed, they lost everything (he was a builder), so they can't get a mortgage in this tight credit market. 

My realtor just told me that she hasn't had any activity at all, not one phone call, in four weeks.  And she works in one of the busiest offices in western WI.  In her words, the "market is dead, completely frozen." 

Having two mortgages really, really sucks.   :'(
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mgriffin

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2008, 11:50:42 AM »
I'm seeing more houses for rent now, presumably people who couldn't sell at all and didn't need their second house.  Or maybe people who just couldn't stomach selling in such a down market and decided to rent as a way of getting through to a market recovery, and selling then.
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Mark Mushet

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2008, 01:51:36 PM »
It seems like the economy is in rapid-shrink mode, and huge layoffs are being announced every day. I'm not too interested in a political blame-assignment discussion about the economy, but I'm curious how many people reading this forum have been touched, or spared, by layoffs.

No effect whatsoever...so far. Most of the "problems" are long overdue for correction though. I mean, it is sick to measure an economy's health by factors such as car sales.

Mark, how is it "sick" to measure an economy's health by car sales? If you said "short sighted" I'd agree, although it's served my state well for a hundred years or so. Granted, by it's very nature, an automobile is a dirty product, but in this society it's also a necessity. Do you drive a car, or ride a bus? By the way, GM is planning to unveil an electric car in the next few years, if it is still a functioning company.

It is "sick" in that we've all known for a long time (though not acknowledged or acted upon) the fact that poor quality, design and massive output of vehicles have a negative impact on the health of the world and that we've failed to prepare for it. Yet we've still seen a "business as usual" approach as "healthy". Oil and car companies have, for more than half a century stymied all attempts at increasing efficiency and the development of vehicles that would negatively affect their short term profits. GM should get no "Brownie points" for only talking about developing electric cars in the year 2008. Too little too late. It still amazes me that SUVs were a product introduced in the 1990s. I think "sick" and "short sighted" are both perfecty apt.

What promises will the auto industry make towards sustainability before being bailed out by government? What promises will unions and workers make to themselves to see the bigger picture and act on moving forward on making the industry more responsible before expecting generation after generation to grow up in auto plants?

BTW I drive a '91 Honda Civic. I wouldn't buy a Ford or GM, though I'd theoretically much prefer it.

Vancouver also has a "sick" reliance on property speculation and real estate development that I hope is soon corrected. It may be rough for those playing the game and some may be unfairly hurt, but that's how we've "engineered" our economies.

I wish it were all otherwise believe me!

LNerell

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2008, 02:19:17 PM »
In a strange way I feel personally that I have been through the ruff times and am about to come out on the other side. I use to teach part-time at two community colleges and worked at a music store also part-time. About two years ago in one two week period I lost all three jobs. I ended up doing mostly temp work, and had eight different jobs and was on unemployment for four months during 2007. Near the beginning of this year I got my current job, a part-time position at a local university working as a recording technician in the music school.  And now it looks like within the next few months I will be going full-time. Itís been a hard road but I think I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As far as how the bad economy has affected us here, we have felt it a bit but it has mostly to do with the state budget problems then anything else. Scheduled pay increases are on hold until further notice. We had to lay off one person in our department, their should be five of us but at this time their are only three, and with the up coming retirement of one individual we will be down to two, although this is only until we can hire two more people so it should only be for a short time period.

By the way, GM is planning to unveil an electric car in the next few years, if it is still a functioning company.

GM did that back in the 1990s here in California. They had a lot of interest, with long lines of people ready to take delivery of a Saturn EV. In response GM refused to sell anyone a car and would only lease them. They then bitched and moaned about the state mandate that required electric cars, and once the lease was up they then took every car back and destroyed them instead of selling them to their lease holders. They even pretty much gave up on hybrid technology when they were the world leaders. Because of this I have very little sympathy to GM and the other big three, they only thought about the short term and have pretty much driven themselves into a ditch.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2008, 02:21:18 PM by LNerell »
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mgriffin

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2008, 02:29:28 PM »
It seems that the car industry and the financial services industry are two areas where people have less than the usual sympathy for those who are in trouble and possibly losing their jobs.  The problem is that each failure of a GM or an AIG doesn't just affect the greedy, short-sighted executives of those companies who caused the problem, but also affects many rank and file employees of the company, as well as employees of companies that do business with those giant corporations.

There's a part of me that feels it would be a kind of justice to see GM go bankrupt, but then I remember that it wouldn't just punish those at fault.  It would punish many, many others and would probably also cost our society more than if we could find some way of helping them through this situation.

The best win-win deal would be if some of these companies could be assisted through short-term difficulties in a way that allows them to survive, doesn't unfairly waste taxpayer funds, and also strong-arms the companies (I'm talking about both auto and financial industries) into behaving in a more enlightened way.

My "day job" is in the steel industry, and much of the steel industry went through a major collapse a few years ago, which resulted in a healthier and more sustainable steel industry that can afford to compete.  But the change did not, could not, occur without some bloodletting.  Many jobs were lost, unions broken, and oppressive pension and retirement health care obligations were cut loose.  It seems likely the auto industry, at least, will need a similarly difficult solution in the end.
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Wayne Higgins

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2008, 02:41:57 PM »
My wife works for the State of Florida.  They have been frightened for years.  No put downs intended, but Democrats give them raises, Republicans cut the funds.  She has a job that is secure, as in the feds fund her department (as safe as it can be).  Laws are inplace that mandate Nursing Homes are monitored.  But it's no picnic. 

My job. :D I actually hate this work.  Half of our money comes via contracts with AIG, so any day :o.  The other half (what I do) is always going to be there.  People do need clean drinking water, you know.  Most of my work comes from monitoring waste water treatment plants.  The point about my job is that it is somewhat secure, but I'm unhappy.  The dismal part is that I look at the Sunday want ads... have a page in the paper.  If worse comes to worse, I will start selling firewood on a street corner.  I've got plenty of it.
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SunDummy

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2008, 02:49:01 PM »
I'm unclear on exactly how giving GM money will in any way improve the situation.  Seems like throwing good money after bad.  Sure, it'll allow them to continue operations, but only short-term.  The long-term outlook for them is bleak at best, unless there is a major shift in how they do business.  Toyota (as an example) makes cars that people want; they're thriving.  True, they don't have the expensive pensions and unions that GM has, but they have such huge market share in the US because they anticipate trends, and provide what the public wants quickly.  The Yaris, the Prius, etc. - they get it.  I don't see GM (or any of the big three) doing this.  They talk about hybrids and fuel economy, but they are still stuck in a bigger-is-better mindset.

There's a commercial for one of the big three's hybrid SUVs (I forget which), in which they brag about the great mileage (30-ish), while asserting that you get this great mileage while still getting a huge SUV.  What the hell?  Are they completely missing the point?  Just last night, I saw a commercial for a four-door pickup truck, in which some drivers put the vehicles through a "punishing obstacle course", like a scene from American Gladiators, or Wrestling, but with trucks.  HUGE trucks.  The viewer is then invited to see more of the course, by going to a website.  WTF?  THIS is supposed to boost their sales?  Sure, there are some chain-driven motorheads who find this stuff compelling, and will probably buy one of these behemoths to impress their mud-rally buddies.  But is this really where the automaker should be putting advertising dollars?  Really?  THIS is gonna help turn things around in Detroit?  You don't see many Toyota ads for their big Sequoia; they focus on smaller, more efficient cars in their marketing.  And it works.

It all just seems like business as usual.  Which might be ok, if not for the fact that it's not working.  The Big Three are all in trouble; it seems obvious to me that if you keep doing the same thing, and getting the same bad result, maybe you should try something new.  Or at least watch what your successful competitor is doing, and try to follow their lead.

And I agree, Loren, it's hard to have sympathy for these companies, but I sure do feel for the people farther down the food chain.
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mgriffin

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2008, 03:20:12 PM »

By the way, GM is planning to unveil an electric car in the next few years, if it is still a functioning company.


GM did that back in the 1990s here in California. They had a lot of interest, with long lines of people ready to take delivery of a Saturn EV. In response GM refused to sell anyone a car and would only lease them. They then bitched and moaned about the state mandate that required electric cars, and once the lease was up they then took every car back and destroyed them instead of selling them to their lease holders. They even pretty much gave up on hybrid technology when they were the world leaders. Because of this I have very little sympathy to GM and the other big three, they only thought about the short term and have pretty much driven themselves into a ditch.


I'd recommend the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? for anyone curious about the events around the EV1, which was GM's aborted attempt at an electric car. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car

Once you see this, though, you're likely to be so angry at GM that you'll want to see the company go bankrupt.  GM certainly had a chance to get a head-start on the rest of the world, but they decided not to pursue it, for whatever reason.
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Joe R

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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2008, 03:43:19 PM »
Just to make myself clear:

In no way am I making excuses for GM. I agree that they've dug their own hole through shortsightedness and greed. In fact, only 3 years ago their big push was to sell those humongous Hummers. However, I DID want to know what Mark meant by "sick", since it seemed like an extraordinarily inappropriate word. But after reading his explanation, I find that I have to agree with him.

However, I have great sympathy for my brother, and other people I know who work at various auto plants, who put in an honest day's work (they're not all lazy deadbeats like you might have heard), and just want to keep their American dream. I don't want to see them uprooted, and then have to scratch for another job, ANY job, in this economy.

And I'm very, very afraid of the impact on our economy -AND the global economy- if the Big 3 are allowed to fail. There are so many jobs at stake in so many sectors of the economy... I don't know if many people can fully appreciate how far-reaching the effects of a Big 3 failure would be. Folks, we'll be looking at another Great Depression.


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Re: Layoffs, downsizing, retrenchment, whatever you call it
« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2008, 03:47:15 PM »
Not to turn this topic into "All about GM" but here's a recent, relevant article about discussions of an auto-industry bailout:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/opinion/12friedman.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin

The thing to remember, though, is that it might well cost US taxpayers more to deal with the aftermath of one or more enormous corporate bankruptcies, and the cascade effect of smaller bankruptcies, than to put together some kind of sensible assistance package.  Another way of looking at it is that such an assistance package or "bailout" might be more about the taxpayers' self-interest, than helping greedy corporate executives who made stupid decisions.
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