Thursday, April 30, 2009

Job Loss....When The Economic Slowdown Hits Home

This was not enjoyable day at my workplace, not when a dozen people are called into a conference room to be told they no longer have a job. Twelve people who just had the downturn in the economy slam them square in the face. For these individuals thoughts about new purchases and summer vacations were quickly replaced with the prospect of job hunting and calculating how long their severance packages will last. Fortunately I wasn't among them...this time.

I work for a large Pharmaceutical concern, with offices and production facilities across the Greater Toronto Area. They also have operations in the U.S. as well as other countries, and from what I understand the job cuts extended beyond those occurring at our Toronto location. I've haven't even worked there for six months, yet I saw people with much greater seniority than myself shown the door. The reason? Simple, I'm a temporary contract worker employed through an agency....or as I prefer to call them, a pimp. As such I'm far more cost effective than those who are longer tenured and better paid. When they decide to let me go they'll simply call my pimp and have them tell me not to bother coming into work anymore.

Employers love temporary staffing agencies, there are no payroll taxes to worry about and absolutely no obligations to the temporary worker. I can be kept on at a lower cost without concern over increased severance costs when the time comes to show me the door. A gentleman with whom I worked, with over 10 years service, was among those let go today. A long standing employee with years of dedicated service is deemed expendable, while a temp worker is allowed to continue almost makes me feel like a scab.

I reconcile my feelings with the knowledge that if it wasn't me in this position, that it would be another temporary worker...and that regardless my longer serving colleague would have been out of work in any case. Still, it shouldn't be this way. Governments are supposed to be about more than helping corporate entities protect their bottom lines. But given the long run of business friendly Liberal and Conservative governments in both Ottawa and Queen's Park, I'm not surprised.

At times its easy to ignore the storm clouds that have been gathering on the fiscal horizon for the past six to nine months. There's the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a new baseball movies coming out, and a host of other diversions to take one's mind off our slumping economy. But when you see colleagues and friends being handed pink can really be a reality check. And to see how little is being done to help ordinary working people while banks and other major players are being handed billions in bail out should be a wake up call.

If I were a business owner I'd likely be applauding the efforts in Washington and Ottawa to stimulate the economy, and the calls for workers to lessen their demands. Many now feel lucky just to have a job, and concessions are increasingly becoming the norm.

But a word of warning to those who are almost gleeful at seeing workers like those in the auto sector having their wages and benefits pummelled....there's a good chance you're going to be next. Sure auto workers have negotiated some pretty sweet contracts, but now that they're caving...the rest of us are going to be easy pickings.

At least I don't have the Swine Flu.

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