Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Please organise layoffs

Published:Monday | March 29, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Like everyone else, I was very concerned when the global economic crisis precipitated lay-offs in many sectors of society. It's anecdotal but I've been noticing an increasing number of laid-off workers and their affected relatives/dependants who are worried and even distraught. Once again, there has been a resurgence of concern because - as part of the need to reduce government spending drastically - we are poised to experience significant public sector 'reorganisation' (reassignments, salary cuts, early retirements and lay-offs) in just a few weeks.

Our country's high unemployment rate makes it necessary for those who are gainfully employed to assist their families (and sometimes relatives). For this, they use their income and they often add qualified dependants to their medical insurance policies because it is blatantly obvious that the already oversubscribed, underfunded health sector 'safety net' (no-user fee policy) cannot sustain the health-care needs of our entire society.

Preparations are well under way to choose who will be laid off and from where, so, when the public and private sectors announce the deployment of their 'hatchet' men and women, many lives will be changed forever.

Abject poverty

I am already seeing incidence of families drifting inexorably towards abject poverty because the breadwinners lost their jobs. They are coasting on redundancy payments and/or savings, while desperately seeking employment anywhere that they can get it. Some are urgently making plans to migrate in a panicked bid to survive the economic catastrophe.

Extreme care and planning ought to be taken when choosing who gets laid off as part of the work-force reduction plan for government and private sector companies (especially the large ones). Laying off people can unwittingly leave families bereft of any income. The mandatory slashing of spending by reducing the workforce must be tempered with good judgment and humaneness.

Currently, striking names off the payroll is based on the need for a smaller staff complement; employers take into consideration work performance, years of service, relevance, duplication and so on. However, it would also be wise to carry out interviews in order to determine the needs and number of income earners within an individual's family unit because layoffs can be devastating for all concerned.

For instance, as things stand, Mr X could be laid off from a government department and his wife or spouse could also find herself being laid off from another. Or, Mr Y could be sent home from a private company and his wife or spouse could also be sent home from another or from a government job. Other scenarios may prevail involving parents and children.

Redundancy policy

In choosing to make a worker redundant, is there a policy for anyone to check if he/she is the sole breadwinner? Does anyone seek to find out how many people are depending on that one individual for food, clothes, shelter, education and so on? Information technology can be used to check the facts, however, in my opinion, instigating such a policy is so important that using investigators in uncertain cases should be considered.

Unfortunately, the Government and private companies make decisions based on the bottom dollar without thinking of the immediate, intermediate or long-term ramifications in the lives of their employees. As a rule, human beings are now seen simply as resources - objects to be used to generate income for the company - not unlike a computer or other piece of machinery or furniture. Not only is this growing trend unfeeling, it breeds distrust, complacency and even acrimony. Things are bad enough as they are - pauperising families is just plain heartless.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Feedback may be sent to garthrattray@gmail.com or columns@gleanerjm.com.