Bottom-line mania, the desire to reduce expenses and make more profit, often at the expense of personnel, has found a new ally – September 11th.
September 11th has curiously become intrinsically linked with a downturn in the world economy, as the immediate knock-on effects are felt mainly in the airline, travel and tourism industries. Thousands of jobs have been cut to save companies living on the edge of bankruptcy, as ever-sensitive profit margins were corrected to create competitiveness.
However, the suspicion begins to arise as to whether it is really necessary to make redundant all the personnel that have lost their jobs, or are some, or many, added to the list as companies take advantage of the excuse to have a generalised clear-out?
Under the communist system in the Soviet Union and her allies, a job was not a luxury, but a reality. It was not a drama, it was guaranteed, as was a house, free education, and health care, of an excellent standard. Times have changed, and with the tidal wave of market-oriented capitalism, the good old days are gone.
Out goes the job and emphasis on the person and in comes insecurity in the workplace, and on the street, bringing along a total disregard for the quality of human life and rendering to the ridiculous the term “human” resources. What matters is the bottom line. Profit margins.
A job is in most cases not a vehicle to obtain beer and cigarettes, but the life support system of the family. It is the force behind an education and health care, now that these notions, with the advent of the market economy, are fossils. To speak in terms of cutting jobs to make a good investment is to use the language of the obtuse, the callous, the dehumanised, bland creatures which are today’s managers.
Globo, the Brazilian media empire, the largest not only in Brazil but also in South America, is a good example of this current inhuman and inhumane trend. In the first half of 2001, Globo registered profits of 50,000,000 USD. Now, three months later, due to a cut in advertising revenue, the company claims it is near to bankruptcy and proceeds with hundreds of job cuts, to reduce expenses.
The US-based multinational, Avon, plans to reduce expenses by 100,000,000 USD worldwide to increase profits in one year. Many are the stories around the world of companies refusing to supply toilet paper, to reduce expenses.
Banks are a visible example of this perverse trend away from human relations in the workplace. First, they reduce staff attending the public so that to go to a bank is a nightmare 45-minute wait. The only solution is to acquire an ATM card, paid. Now in some countries, the bank imposes a charge on all ATM movements. As usual, and as with everything in this market-oriented world, the rule of the day is now crystal clear: always paying more, for less.
Human values have been lost, the emphasis on the person in the workplace is regarded as obsolete as companies start talking about workstations at home and home-working, so as not even to pay for the upkeep of an office.
If this is what the market-oriented capitalism has brought us, it would seem apparent that the result leaves much to be desired. A return to the board room for a period of concentrated debate on returning to human values would not only improve the world economy, because job insecurity does not create an environment for people to free their money into the marketplace, but would make the world a better and friendlier place to live in.
When managers are speaking in terms of cutting a job to save, say, 20,000 USD per year while temps are hired, they are signing the death warrant of the future generations, relegated to a life in which everything is demanded of them and nothing is given in return.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL