3.07.2009

the recession hits wmtc

I wanted to blog today. I have many things to write. But I have no time to blog, because I'm so busy at work.

I'm so busy at work because 48 people were let go from this law firm last month. That's about 30% of the support staff.

Those of us still here have to work harder to make up the difference.

I don't mind being busy. But we're not just busy. We're swamped, and we're afraid. We're all supposed to just be grateful we still have jobs, keep our noses down, and work faster.

No one complains. No one expects a raise this year. People are reluctant to use their vacation and sick entitlements, fearing it will count against them.

But you know what? This firm turned a profit last year. By all reports, it's doing well. So why were 48 people let go? Because the firm can use the bad economy as an excuse to cut costs. That's what we are. Costs.

This week a second axe fell. Our transportation allowance is being cut.

When you work evenings or nights in a large law firm, the firm pays for a cab home. This is a safety issue, as night-time transit, especially to the suburbs, is infrequent and often deserted. It's also a long-standing tradition. Law firm, night staff, cab.

Now the firm is putting a dollar cap on cabs home. I don't live too far away, so the difference between what the firm will pay and the cost of the cab is not exorbitant. Even so, in the course of a month - working only two days per week - it will add up to $120. I'm already underemployed. Where am I going to find another $120 per month? For other people, the distance puts a cab home out of reach. How will they get home? Will they be safe?

Everyone is waiting for the next axe to fall. The fear makes us accept anything.

Of course there are so many people so much worse off than I am. Their examples also keep us afraid.

This is why I went to the IS talk last week: "How can workers fight back in a recession?" The talk I don't have time to tell you about, because I'm working so hard.

16 comments:

Stephanie said...

I feel there are so many companies who are using the 'recession' as an excuse for cutting costs as you say.

The University of Western Ontario, for example, is trying to cut jobs and budgets because of their own failed investment strategy. They invested in hedge funds and lost (bad gamble). Their strategy instead of weathering the storm?? Lay off the admin staff (some of the hardest working) and limited duties contract personnel (teachers who don't have a tenure track position).

They could simply borrow to keep them above water but layoffs today mean much more profit tomorrow!! This is an opportunity for them to pad tomorrow's bottom line.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Wow, that sucks. I'm so sorry.

Gene said...

If it weren't for your post, I would probably not have stopped at Kunstler's tonight. Things don't sound good, wmtc. Kunstler is now anticipating some sort of collapse of the farming industry! He writes: "The collapse of complex systems is actually predicated on the idea that the systems would mutually reinforce each other's failures. This is now plain to see as the collapse of banking (that is, of both lending and debt service), has led to the collapse of commerce and manufacturing. The next systems to go will probably be farming, transportation, and the oil markets themselves (which constitute the system for allocating and distributing world energy resources). As these things seize up, the final system to go will be governance, at least at the highest levels." Charming!

I'm sorry that you are already experiencing the hardships of this new era. If Kunstler is right, we'll all be hit sooner or later, not that this is supposed to bring you some sort of solace. I'm thinking of starting a section on my blogroll linking to sites that offer insights and advice on alternative ways of living. I came upon this one tonight, via this site [I don't remember how I got there!]. The point is that I do feel like we're on The Titanic!

L-girl said...

Thanks for the sympathy. I'm still employed, still enjoying my life, albeit on a tighter budget and with fewer choices. I'm frustrated, I'm annoyed, but I'm one of the luckier ones.

Re James Kunstler, there has never been a shortage of doomsayers, for every occasion and generation. There are myriad problems in our world right now, there's no doubt about that, but I prefer to focus on solutions and positive change, not predictions about when the sky will fall and how soon.

Each to her/his own, but I find that site worthless at best.

Re "we'll all be hit," millions of people all over the globe have been hit, and continue to be hit, harder and harder. As you say, that more people joining the sinking ship should not be a comfort to any of us.

mister anchovy said...

I too have seen people lose jobs all around me. I still have one, and I'm happy about that, but it's getting very scary out there.

Nigel Patel said...

The attitude of employers in the last fifteen years has turned absolutely vicious.
I'm hoping that the stock market crash will teach them a little humility. (Though I'm most likely mistaken)
That they will learn that their wealth comes from their employees, not from dividends.

L-girl said...

Yes, scary.

That they will learn that their wealth comes from their employees, not from dividends.

We can't expect them to learn anything. There have to be laws and regulations that force their hands, whether they learn or not. We have to change the system, not wait for people to get their comeuppance.

redsock said...

I'm hoping that the stock market crash will teach them a little humility.

The only thing they are learning is that they can gamble/steal a shit-ton of money away and have regular workers cover their losses.

What a deal!

Cornelia said...

I feel there are so many companies who are using the 'recession' as an excuse for cutting costs as you say.

O yeah. But vacation every once a while is vital and so is not getting politically intimidated into buying all the say...
I also hate it when some people have to work overtime and others need to job-hunt a long time until they find a nice job again!!!

Cornelia said...

As you say, that more people joining the sinking ship should not be a comfort to any of us.

I agree. Yeah. It shows just that it's a structural problem (and not the fault of the employees) but I do prefer encouraging stuff and ideas on what can be done and enlightenment and success stories (like when I took my former boss to court and won against him, haha.)

Cornelia said...

(and not the fault of the employees)

Because some people would like to blame the employees and get a lot of people believe their fairy tales, I meant.

Yeah, they want to intimidate people on a large scale and use a lot of divide and conquer stuff as well. And weird unpleasant stereotyping scary stories re: people on welfare, too...

Cornelia said...

but I prefer to focus on solutions and positive change

Same with me, I agree 100 %!!!

Cornelia said...

I wonder at times what some people who are into saying mean and not very uplifting things about people on welfare would take their frustration out on if the jobmarket was better...

Cornelia said...

They are so freaked out that on the one hand, they always are extremely desperate and pessimistic about the jobmarket and on the other hand, they expect all people on welfare to feel awful and seem to actually trying to foster this by verbal abuse and terrible tales and complaining around instead of doing something to help. They have 2 stereotypes and both of them are disastrous: One is about people who always get drunk and the other one is about people whose self-esteem has gone with their jobs and who end up doing themselves in and abusing themselves. Horrible, absolutely ghastly. And Heaven forfend they should come across people who would have neither (just ironically speaking)! They are both scared of losing their jobs and of coming across people without a job. They refuse to realize that everybody is born free and equal, I think. I don't know what their problem is exactly but it must be pretty serious, I guess. And I'm sure they could say very similar trash about people from other groups that are being discriminated against, too.

Cornelia said...

It is so stupid what they say and it seems like secondary victimization to me.

Cornelia said...

Re: those weird killjoys I talked about, I guess I will need to work again on talking back fast enough so that they can't freak me out any more. That won't hurt either when I have a job again...