Yes, Tim, it truly is about jobs. Congress can debate health care reform, bail out banks, extend unemployment benefits, work to develop a climate bill, increase the legislative budget, and do whatever else it does until the cows come home, but we need jobs—lots of good jobs—for the economy to improve.
Jobs and a healthy economy are analogous to the chicken and the egg. You can't have one without the other. And without jobs and a healthy economy, the U.S. can't afford the flood of money Congress is spending these days. The current situation is a mindboggling conundrum—a mess. I don't have the answers, but I believe employers and employees can work together to mitigate job loss—just as the companies mentioned in my colleague's blog post did. Fabricating Update readers think so too.
Yesterday's Fabricating Update described the no layoff policies of Hypertherm, Lincoln Electric, and Midwest Control Products, Bushnell, Ill., a 65-employee company that implemented an alternative work program rather than lay off workers. Employees now do maintenance work that the company used to contract out. They're cleaning offices, tuckpointing the brick, painting the factory and repairing the machinery. They also tend a two-acre garden behind one of the company's facilities and sell the produce.
We asked Fabricating Update readers what they thought of no layoff policies and whether their companies might be able to implement them. Here's what they had to say.
A reader who is soon to be laid off wrote, "After working within the auto industry & I couldn't agree more with the NO layoff policy!! Here they lay off highly skilled workers just to satisfy the number-crunching inexperienced management. After 39 years as a toolmaker/project tooling engineer, I am now told my skills are not required or needed & although they have kept the younger, inexperienced 'yes men' in work. Sad days."
Another reader who is among those who have been laid aired his frustrations: "As a skilled iron worker and craftsmen, I like the no layoff policy. I'd rather take a pay cut than not have a job at all. I am currently unemployed, and it's not a good feeling to visit shops around the California Central Coast and not hear a grinder going or not see a skilled welder or a fabricator. They look at my resume and see that I'm over qualified for the job.
"I really don't think small shops would do the no layoff policy; shop owners are working by themselves. I have three shops that are giving me the run around—'yeah, I will call you.' One has been saying he wants to meet me, but he is never around. The others are sitting up shop. I TRULY HATE SMALL SHOPS BUNCH OF WANNA BE BIG SHOPS. It's crap like this that [is forcing] me to start my own steel fabricating business and do the no layoff policy."
Here's an interesting response from a company with union employees: "The company I work for overhauls jet turbine engines. The part of the company I work in is nonunion, and we all do a little bit of everything as needed. Being a welder, I help mechanics when things are slow in the weld shop. In the union part of the company, they are having layoffs because the employees are not allowed to work out of their classifications. On the union side, about 400 have been laid off; on the nonunion side, which consists of about 250 people, there has not been a single layoff."
We heard from several companies who are operating under no layoff policies. The owner of a fabricating business wrote: "We are one of the fortunate fabricators in the San Diego area as we have a decent backlog of work for our employees. However, we do have a period of time between the completion of one project and the start of another when we are a little slow. We have used this time to do maintenance, organize our yard space, and rebuild or repair equipment. We have also instituted a four-day work week for the employees that gives everyone at least 32 hours per week until the workload increase allows us to go back to the 40 hour week.
"We anticipate that through this downturn we will not have to lay off any employees."
One heavy-equipment manufacturer adopted the no layoff policy after suffering repercussions from a layoff: "We had to lay off some workers back in the winter, but not for long. We decided to use the 'week on and week off' scenario. When we had the layoff, we lost some very highly skilled people to the power company. When the word gets out that a company is laying off workers, busy companies place ads in the newspapers. They know that [our company] has always been known for its welding expertise."
This company's experience reinforces the words Hypertherm founder Dick Couch uttered on a National Public Radio broadcast—words that were reprinted in Fabricating Update and my colleague's blog post. They can't be stressed enough: "Once you have a highly skilled work force, the last thing you want to do is lay them off. This isn't altruism. It's good business."
Oh & and Congress? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told his colleagues Tuesday that Senate Democrats now will take up a 2010 jobs creation act initiative. Joining Reid in the announcement, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said, "We've got to figure out a way to get better job growth in America. Too many people in my state and around the country can't find jobs."
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