Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Please, please, please, check out this Web link to I have seen in many moons.
Then read the story about former Nortel Chief Executive Officer Mike Zafirovski in bankruptcy court.
Doesn’t that worth-a-million dollars, let alone words, picture in the Toronto Star rip your heart? Do you feel any outrage?
Well, if it doesn’t then you are one cold customer – or a fool.
The wheelchairs, walkers, gray hair, receding hairlines but most of all the sad faces of Nortel pensioners protesting in Ottawa about how the bankruptcy of their former employer is being handled should burn itself into your memory.
Are these the faces of us who still have jobs as the recession deepens, more plants close and companies seek shelter from their debts through corporate bankruptcy?
And talk about poignant quotes, read this one from Nortel pensioner Eddie Halpin, now 70 years old and fearful his benefits are at risk:
"The corpse is being cut up, dissected, and handed all around. They are taking the money and running."
Underfunded pensions are a cataclysm waiting to strike in the U.S. and elsewhere. This recession is only making matters worse. How many companies are cutting retirement contributions already? How many have stopped?
Without a doubt the hardest part of writing about business is not jerk CEOs or obstinate media relations people but writing about layoffs and plant closings.
For example, the shuttering of the massive Dell computer plant in Winston-Salem is much more than a story about tax incentives for businesses. Unfortunately, the media focus has largely been on whether Dell will somehow benefit financially rather than discuss the broader implications of the shutdown and the loss of more than 900 jobs.
Just as Nortel cuts its work force in RTP, the Dell closure has incredible ripple effects. Every job loss means less money for homes, groceries and cars – clunkers or not. How many service providers, from parts manufacturers to cleaning and maintenance, will close down or cut workers as Dell leaves the Triad?
Think of the impact losing Dell as a corporate citizen will have on local philanthropy.
Fortunately, some good news this week helps balance the Dell loss. Cree is going to create more than 500 “green” jobs for LED production in Durham and will expand its relationship with contract manufacturer Flextronics in Charlotte.
NetApp, meanwhile, just opened a new, more energy efficient data center at its 10-year-old campus in RTP.
But the bottom line is this: Unemployment is increasing and a jobless recovery seems at hand even if one assumes the economy is indeed recovering.
That’s a big “if,” brother.
Nortel soon will disappear as a company, its best business units auctioned off as creditors line up to get what they are do. But what of the pensioners and the laid-off workers who were denied severance benefits?
Keep that picture from the Toronto Star saved in your memory, my friends. Their faces – and fates – could be yours someday.
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