‘Yes we can’ save jobs

Employers get creative to avoid layoffs

Organizations are looking for creative ways to save money without cutting jobs, efforts United States President Barack Obama recognized in his inauguration speech last month.

It will be “the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours,” said Obama.

In Canada, several organizations are giving employees the chance to make small sacrifices to save jobs.

The publishing arm of Toronto-based Rogers Communications, which publishes 70 titles including Maclean’s and Chatelaine, has given full-time employees the choice to reduce their workweek from five days to four, with a corresponding 20-per-cent cut in pay.

The option is voluntary and will only last for 11 months starting in February, said a company spokesperson. The company will decide, from among the volunteers, who takes off which days to ensure business needs are met.

Bell Canada is offering buyout packages to 1,500 unionized employees who are close to retirement. The company is only offering the incentive to employees who meet certain criteria and who are eligible to retire in 2009 and 2010, said a company spokesperson.

Steel manufacturer Essar Steel Algoma and United Steelworkers Local 2724, which represents nearly 600 salaried personnel at the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., operation, have applied for a federal work-share program. Under the proposal, the workweek would be cut from 40 to 32 hours and the federal government would pay employees $89 for the eight hours of lost employment.

International approaches

Across the pond, accountancy firm KPMG has asked its 11,000 British staff if they would switch to a four-day workweek or take a one- to three-month sabbatical at 30 per cent of pay to help avoid layoffs.

About 80 per cent of staff have volunteered so far and, as with Rogers, KPMG will decide which days participating employees have off and when they can take their sabbaticals. The Canadian arm of KPMG said it is considering making a similar offer to employees.

Unionized workers at British construction-equipment manufacturer JCB gave up overtime last summer and in October cut their workweek from 39 to 34 hours. The reduced workweek will last until the end of March and has reduced the number of needed layoffs from 510 to 178, according to GMB, the trade union that represents workers at JCB.

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