Bell Canada: "Lean and mean" like Gordon Gekko
|Michael Douglas in his Gordon Gekko role.|
It's depressing this summer, the litany of plant closures and job losses, even the latest news that housing sales are falling across the country. Are you thinking this is what 1928 must have felt like?
At least a big corporation like BCE Inc. knows how to put the right spin on the loss of 2,500 jobs to appeal to a crowd that thinks newer, slicker, faster is always the way to go. "They are sending a message they intend to be lean and mean," industry analyst Carmi Levy told business reporter Tony Wong about yesterday's layoff announcement. Sounds like the kind of thing buyout champ Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) would could have said in the 1987 flick, Wall Street. Gekko's credo of "greed is good" pretty much summed up the decade.
Are we really back there?
To decode Bell's message, the company essentially appealed to its customers to believe they'll be better off with the layoffs. As Bell stressed, "non-management, front-line jobs" won't be affected. "Leaner and meaner" means better service for you. Now, putting aside the question of whether the public buys the idea they'll be better served by the dumping of 2,500 jobs, consider the underlying tone of a corporate message that had to have been worked out after long strategy sessions by high-priced help. BCE is betting people care more about their own lives — how's this going to affect me? — than the employees and their families. Maybe it's true, one observes sadly, but it's a rather distasteful message for a giant corporation like BCE, now owned by a group headed by the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund, to be sending out. I thought the me-me-me times were over.
Moreover, are we supposed to care less about management jobs than we do about auto workers getting the boot this summer? Oh well. As new BCE Inc. CEO George Cope so delicately put it: "It's always difficult to see colleagues depart, but these changes are absolutely necessary."
Hey, life goes on.