Thursday, June 12, 2008

2004 - A Story from the Past

Yesterday I had this really random memory of the time I got layed off from my job. I realized I'd never shared it here and it was a pretty big event so I figured it was worth recording here. I had planned to find the entry in my journal (if I'd recorded it) and just type that up. Well I found the entry but the writing is terrible so I'll retell and hope age has made me a better writer.

I'd worked at Superpages for a number of years and I was really happy there. I was in a great department with a great boss and over the years had moved myself into a position that I loved. I worked with a woman named Dee who was incredible and my all-time favorite co-worker. She'd been with the company for roughly 40 years so she knew everyone and people talked to her, she was great source of info through the whole experience and most of what we knew was from her contacts. In the recent past our company had been bought, and then sold and bought again. Changes had been made but none of us really felt they were good changes.

On Tuesday my department started to hear rumors that the Ontario office was closed, everyone had been let go and told to go home (and if I'm not mistaken they were told not to talk to anybody about it until the following day). We had an old co-worker in the Ontario office so we tried to call him at work, at home and on the cell to no answer. Not a good sign. We'd also been told that there was a big, company wide meeting the next day. There had been an email saying the call centre would be on automatic answer so all the call centre agents could be there. They NEVER do that. They also hadn't told us the location of the meeting which was odd. We were concerned.

Wednesday morning I got to work at my usual time, 7:00am and there were already managers in, they weren't ever in that early. Dee talked to one who'd been layed off and found out another had quit. We all had emails waiting for us telling us where to go for our meeting at 10:00am, different departments were in different rooms. We found out that my department was in the same room as Ontario listings which is bad. By now we've confirmed that the office in Ontario had been closed. If there's no office there then there's no need for the listings group.

I take the opportunity to go through my computer and email anything personal to myself so I have a copy. I'm feeling prepared for what's to come.

10:00 comes and it's meeting time. As we walk to our room we notice there are people we don't know standing around, they wear badges that say Counselor & Security, they had brought in Grief Counselors. We later learned that at 10:05 every computer, company wide was locked down.

There were about 15 people in my room and we were all quickly layed off. Company wide they layed off about 500 people that day. 72 of those were from Alberta, 60 from BC. So we left the meeting, packed up our desks and started to say goodbye to everyone. Again, we found out later that in the rooms were they weren't layed off they tried to stall, hoping that we'd all be gone before they were adjourned to avoid awkwardness.

I'd prepared myself to be out of a job but not to have to say goodbye to so many people. It was really emotional for a lot of people, including myself. I knew I'd be okay and could find another job but there were a bunch who were seriously concerned about what they would do now, I'm not sure I've ever felt worse at work than I did that day.

On a brighter note, because I was part of a Union they had to give us 90 days notice or pay us for the 90 days. They also gave me an additional 6 weeks severance pay. So at least I didn't have to worry for a while.

As the final kick, I think it's time to mention that this happened 10 days before Christmas.

I found an on-line article about the event

Phone directory firm announces the job cuts just 10 days from Christmas

Some 500 SuperPages Canada employees lost their jobs Wednesday just 10 days before Christmas and barely a month since Boston-based Bain Capital closed a deal to buy the company.

Seventy-three employees at the Burnaby head office and approximately 428 more across the country were laid off as a result of a decision to cease publications of print directories in all markets accept British Columbia, Alberta and northeastern Quebec.

The company will continue to operate its online national directory and it will publish directories for 93 markets in B.C., Alberta and Quebec. It is ceasing publication of 32 directories, according to SuperPages Canada president Todd Millar.

While Millar said it is "an unfortunate time for employees," with the layoffs coming so close to Christmas, he termed it a "good news story," for B.C.

"From a B.C. perspective this is really a good news story for us as we come back to our roots and focus on what we do best inside British Columbia," Millar said in a telephone interview.

It is doubtless not a view shared by most employees, who were notified that they would be called to meetings Wednesday morning to hear the company's 2005 operational plan, only to learn the plan involved axing almost one-third of their number.

The company's phones were put on automatic answering so all employees could attend the 9 a.m. meeting.

Tears greeted the news and many employees left the building within an hour. The company's offices were closed for the day while its management remained behind, although refusing to talk to a waiting Vancouver Sun reporter.

Several former SuperPages employees gathered outside the Burnaby building hugged each other before getting into cars, telling The Sun that the layoffs came as a shock.

The job eliminations trim employee ranks across Canada to 850 from 1350.

Wednesday's news for employees was the latest in a saga that started when Telus sold its directory business and residential listing service to the U.S.-based Verizon Communications in 2001. Last September, Verizon announced it was selling its Canadian directory operations, SuperPages Canada, to Bain Capital for close to $2 billion.

At the time, Ian Loring, a managing director at Bain, termed SuperPages Canada, "a high-regarded, stable franchise with an outstanding history of service to its customers.

"Our firm has a track record of success in purchasing well-positioned, 'non-core' units of major corporations, and partnering with an experienced management team to grow the business and its competitive position in the marketplace," Loring said in a release then.

A spokesman for Bain said the company had no comment Wednesday.

Millar said laid employees will receive a fair compensation package as well as counselling. SuperPages Canada is the publisher of Telus white pages and classified directories in B.C., Alberta and eastern Quebec.

So there you have it, my Superpages experience.
In the end it turned out for the better, I make considerable more money where I am now, I miss my old department though, we had fun together and had fewer crazy people.