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Recession's Bastille
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-02-26 10:55:26
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It is not only the media or the announcement from the governments but lately it is family and friends, just everybody talks about the recession and the fear of losing their jobs and this was the conversation I had just hours ago with a very close friend who told me that in the next few days three of his colleagues are going to follow the short way to the exit. But my friend works in a very successful company that has shown unbelievable profit over the last three years and the profit of the company has been rising over 50% every year, actually everything shows that it will keep rising this year; so what’s going on?

I have made it clear too many times but I’d better repeat it again, I’m not an economist, accountant or anything to do with money and numbers, actually I find it difficult most of the time to follow what’s going on and I’m the only one among my friends that never played in the stock market or anything like that. Still economics has become the center of every conversation lately and it is natural since the international situation obviously affects our lives.

But getting back to my friend, the result of the conversation was that the company he works for is actually laying off people because they are afraid that due to the recession in the end of the year their profits will …decline! The company employs more than 120 people in different positions, from drivers and technicians to secretaries, sales and accountants. In the last quarter of the last year the company managed to get a new customer, a quite big one, and as a result first they were thinking to employee more people and secondly they changed the target for the next year raising them for something like 10%.

Well now, as I said I’m not an economist but to my simple mind these sounds like good news. Then the directors started reading more and more the newspapers, listening and watching the news so as for the first step they decided not to employ anybody new for the year but try to face the work with the personnel they already have. The best part of it was the way they said it to the already overworking employees. Recession! The magic word and with a lot of help from the news they explained that if they wanted to keep their jobs they have better …shut up and help the company …survive!

And they didn’t stop there, of course with the new year they had to talk about the salaries and like most of the companies in the private sector they had made deals with some employees or agreement to raise their salary with the new year. Again the magic word appeared, recession! And you see they didn’t need to do anything more, governments and media do the rest of the work and naturally the workers need their jobs, they are not talking about profits the employees but about survival, so no raises for the new year.

And when you thought that everything stops there they started firing some people and they continue doing so using all the time the magic word, recession and for proof the news, the government and the fear of the unemployment. Apparently nobody thought that these are family people with crucial needs and their salary is important so why don’t we lower our profits and instead of 100% not to make a reasonable 50%? You see I try to be reasonable myself and not say that they are overpricing everything and even 20% profit is plain and raw greed!

My friend has been working for this company the last 18 years and he is not twenty or thirty, he is not even forty. He is in that age where unemployment is not an option not for any other reason but because when you are over fifty employments becomes impossible. And this moment he is scared for his job. I could hear disappointment and frustration in his voice. The government trying to find ways to help with the recession but again how? Giving money, actually billions to the banks so people can borrow more to survive? And how are they going to pay back? The same time the companies don’t want to take the money because that means that the government will be involved with their profits and they don’t like that. They don’t like to publicize that their profits are unacceptable. And then how they can accept the help and the same time continue firing people protecting those unacceptable profits because this is exactly what happens now. Actually with the help of the governments and media the companies found the chance to dismiss all the rights the workers had and got fighting for them for decades. Soon we will find out that the five days week is dead because of …recession! In the end they will ask the workers to pay if they want to keep their jobs.

I exaggerate; I know but please think of it and look what happens around you. Companies that for decades used the state, the people and the land making unbelievable profits even this very moment, companies that are the real responsible behind this recession refuge to do anything about it demanding from the state and the workers to save their profits. They act like French kings ignoring that history might repeat itself and Bastille might open in too many places!

COVER PHOTO: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rickz/463270685/

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Emanuel Paparella2009-02-26 11:46:49
No need to be a Nobel Laureate in economics Thanos. You got it right on target when you used the word greed. Most economists do not include it in their neat formulas and theorems in elucidating the workings of that impersonal demiurge called "the market," for it is not sound scientific enough, but that is where they go wrong. Were they to bring greed into the equation, they'd be much more on target and less mystifying and misguided with their explanations, for they might then actually begin to suspect that those who suffer the consequences of greed are real flesh and blood human being with families to feed.

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-26 12:19:43
P.S. It occurs to me that when the Bastille was conquered by the people they found in it a few old men who refused to come out. Why should they have. They had a roof over their head and three meals a day while the turmoil outside only promised economic uncertainty. Perhaps the young man with a Ph.D. on the cover story should reflect on that, especially if his Ph.D. is in economics.

Clint2009-02-26 17:27:43
It's a sad story Thanos and even sadder that certain bosses who demand loyalty from their staff are using the R word as an excuse to cut costs. I have been made redundant three times and it is the most awful feeling. I wish your friend well but it is often strange how life produces hope out of wreckage.

Alexander Mikhaylov2009-02-26 19:49:45
'Still economics has become the center of every conversation lately and it is natural since the international situation obviously affects our lives.'

Speaking of international situation... I simply wonder how much longer it would take for people to start realizing that western economies are standing on the brick of collapse?

thanos2009-02-26 23:00:41
Emanuel, writing that I had exactly the same picture of the older men inside Bastille, actually the same happened with the forbidden city in China.

Clint, unfortunately my friend's story is not the only one I heard lately and when these stories come from very different between them European countries you start feel a ...chill!

Alexander the warnings were there long time ago but ...we had to go all the way!!!

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