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Glenford Smith | 3 work-life lessons from looming layoffs

Published:Wednesday | January 13, 2016 | 12:00 AMGlenford Smith

On January 6, The Gleaner carried a story titled 'Gov't in talks with Noranda as redundancy looms'. You might have seen it.

The article provided the latest update on the recent challenges faced by Noranda Jamaica Limited, the St Ann-based bauxite mining firm in which the Jamaican government has a 51 per cent majority stake.

This column shares three insights based on recent developments, which you should find valuable in terms of your career and work-life planning. First, however, here's a quick overview, to fill you in.

Between December 21 and January 4, Noranda suspended mining operations, citing declining alumina demand and price. About 100 workers were laid off during the period as a consequence. They've rejoined their 500 unaffected co-workers since the resumption of normal operations on January 4.

To add to its challenges, Noranda lost an arbitration case to the Government on December 18. The result of this ruling will be a doubling of the levy from US$2.50 to US$5 per tonne of bauxite, starting this year.

Essentially, it is the confluence of these issues that necessitated the Government's reported talks with Noranda, as it considers a permanent layoff of up to 30 per cent of its staff, according to union sources.

Let's consider the three important lessons we can glean from these developments. The first is that job security no longer exists, regardless of your credentials, position or years of service.

Noranda's situation is symptomatic of an underlying dynamic that's affecting most local corporations. It's that companies are facing serious challenges just to survive and remain profitable, because of evolving global realities beyond their control.

Recent strategic moves by major local firms provide good examples: Sagicor's acquisition of RBC Jamaica Limited; the RJR/Gleaner and LIME/FLOW mergers; and Digicel's acquisition of

St Lucia-based International Media Content, as well as majority stake in regional sports broadcaster, SportsMax.

One inevitable result of these mergers, acquisitions and corporate rationalisations is that workers' positions at all levels become vulnerable. And it's not that these workers haven't performed well. It's just that there's no place for them in the new organisational structures.

The second insight to note is that workers can no longer depend upon labour unions or even the government to lobby for their jobs, or for good wages. It's arguable that, as changing global realities dictate corporate decisions, unions are becoming increasingly irrelevant. What this means is that workers have to begin to assume greater responsibility for managing their careers.

That doesn't mean you should relinquish membership in your union. Rather, it means you should realise that the powers of your union to protect your job or secure favourable wage and benefits are severely limited.

These two insights converge to give us the key lesson, namely, that whatever your position in your organisation, you have to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. Your business is 'You, Inc'.

This includes operating entrepreneurially in your job. That's called being an intrapreneur. It also requires that you think of starting your own small business, along with your regular job. After all, you just don't know when you might get laid off.


Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'.