RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Laid-off workers at Nortel are resorting to blogging in an attempt to get the telecom gear-maker to pay more attention to their needs – and those of the workers still on the payroll who are wondering when they will lose their jobs.

In a series of posts, the workers say they are offering "research that may be of benefit in helping save Nortel." One post is what they call a "white paper" that discusses research into the "value of treating employees fairly during bankruptcy protection."

"Fairly" is in part a reference to Nortel’s decision in its Jan. 26 bankruptcy to terminate payments promised to laid-off workers who had been receiving severance benefits. Nortel still employs some 2,000 people in the Triangle,and some of their former colleagues were among those losing post-employment pay.

The group posted a second memo this week after first going public on the Web with a long, passionate letter that appeared on Jan. 26. They were directed to Chief Executive Officer Mike Zafirovski as well as Nortel’s board and Ernst & Young, the court-appointed bankruptcy monitor.

“As a follow-up to our memo from Jan. 26, we wanted to provide you with some research findings that might help convince you that not only is paying severance the morally right and ethical thing to do, but that it is an essential step to realizing your stated goal of emerging from creditor protection as a strong and healthy entity," .

"Armed with the information and research we are sharing with you today, we hope you will step up to show the kind of leadership Nortel’s current employees can respect and rally behind, by recommending to the Courts that signed severance agreements be honored and that some financial provision be made for current employees who are laid off in coming weeks and months. This action would help stabilize Nortel’s business and would prove you truly do understand that employees are the critical asset of a knowledge-based company and are critical for the future success of Nortel."

The is extensive and makes for compelling reading.

Here are some "key points" that the workers believe were made in the white paper:

  1. "Lay-offs have been found to not only have negative impacts on ex-employees but also on the ‘survivors’ still employed within the company. How the survivors perform and their perception of the company during the lay-off period and well into recovery are, in large part, determined by how their ex-colleagues were treated when they were let go from the company.
  2. "Many companies that have stopped payments to all creditors during their initial creditor protection filing, have – upon reflection of the impacts on their business – chosen to go back to the courts and argue that employee obligations, including those to dismissed employees, be met. Courts have agreed and supported this move as a way to de-risk the company’s recovery plan.
  3. "Severance today is about much more than just compensating employees who have lost their jobs. A severance agreement is a contract between the company and the ex-employee that results in many positive benefits, including a reaffirmation of non-compete agreements and the protection of intellectual property. It also helps protect the reputation of the company as an employer, encourages employees to speak positively about the company, and helps ensure that former employees who become customers, suppliers or regulators behave favourably towards their former employer in future business situations.
  4. "Even governments are increasingly recognizing the obsolescence of current employment laws, especially in this era of a competitive knowledge economy, where people – not factories – are a company’s primary competitive assets. In recognition of this reality, progressive governments have been modernizing the laws to protect vulnerable employees, including limiting a company’s ability to unilaterally repudiate employment agreements under CCAA [Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act] or Chapter 11 and in giving employees ‘super-priority’ in the event of bankruptcy.”

Will Nortel execs take the workers’ advice?