Major UK layoffs
Redundancies announced in the previous
two years. Apart from BT, total figures
may include white and blue collar
British Telecommunications 5,000
British Petroleum Company 1,150
Midland Bank 4,000
National Westminster Bank 11,000
Lloyds Bank 6,000
TSB Group 2,000
British Airways 4,300
Unemployment in the South-east
At Feb '89 Feb '91
Newbury 1,081 2,103
Basildon 3,998 5,267
Basingstoke 1,451 2,881
Stevenage 1,431 2,420
Crawley 1,004 1,763
Cambridge 1,803 2,692
UK redundancies: spring 1989 and 1990
1989 1990 Change 1989-90
All persons made redundant 142,000 181,000 39,000
now not in employment 94,000 118,000 24,000
Source: Employment Gazette.
The main categories of business failure
England and Wales Scotland
1990 1989 1990 1989
(a) Unincorporated business
and partnerships* 13,987 9,365 4,286 2,301
(b) Receiverships and
administration orders 3,973 1,507 n/a n/a
(c) Insolvent liquidations 14,951 10,456 470 428
* Includes those which have failed to keep up with credit payments
Source: Coopers and Lybrand Deloitte.
Paul Bentley, a chartered surveyor, was until recently property controller for the retail and fashion division of Coats Viyella. He had never been a "job for life" man. Starting out at the Greater London Council ("I wasn't made redundant there, I left before its demise"), he went into private practice and then property management for United Drapery Stores, United Biscuits and Wimpy Fast Foods before ending up at Coats. "My aim was to get to a point where I would have been at board level. But I hadn't made it. And the majority of redundancies are coming at the level just below - because that's where the highest salaries are."
The decision to make him redundant was, according to Bentley, "purely a question of costs". A meeting had been scheduled at which cost-cutting measures were going to be discussed. But he had no idea that his job was one of the cuts. "Numbed" is the way he describes his reaction, though the news was broken "reasonably sensitively, in so far as it can be".
Since that day, two months ago, Bentley has collected a modest redundancy settlement - "three months' notice plus a little extra" - and has been busily looking for other jobs. He has few words of praise for the personnel department at Coats and is waiting to hear if the company is prepared to pay for professional outplacement advice. "I don't feel bitter. It's a fact of life at the moment," he muses. Ironically, one of his most immediate prospects is for consultancy work with Coats Viyella. Other than that, "the phone is still ringing. I'm fairly relaxed. My aspiration is to become master of my own destiny - a small private practice, perhaps."
One big lesson has come from the experience. "I've learnt not to rely on the corporate factor. Nothing is for ever and one has to be even more resourceful than one has been."
John Hill came out of the meeting shattered and shaking. It had lasted only five minutes and had hit him like a bolt from the blue. After 12 happy years with his employer, he assumed that the review to which he had been called was just a regular update on how the team was doing. The only thing that was slightly odd was a senior managing making a special trip all the way from Manchester.
"It was put to me very bluntly," he recalls. "I was asked if I'd ever considered voluntary redundancy. I said 'No, I'm very happy in my job'. And then I was told 'Well, in that case it will have to be enforced redundancy. We'll put you in touch with the relevant people in personnel.'
"It came as a complete surprise. They did it very cleverly. About 500 people went and they were all told on roughly the same day." There followed a period of 90 days in which people could look for other jobs within the company. "My CV was spread around and I applied for a number of jobs. But I never even got as far as an interview."
Hill is angry about never having been properly told why his job had gone. "It was deduced and rumoured, but never formally stated," he says. An obvious reason was age, since most of the people appeared, like Hill, to be in their 50s. On top of that there had been a restructuring a few months before in which Hill's department had merged with another. "I didn't really like the methods of the new people. I was given total control by my previous manager - who was made redundant at the same time."
Hill bears no grudges against his former employer. Although the actual redundancy was handled insensitively, the company provided outplacement help and gave him "an extremely generous payoff". Much to his amazement, he succeeded in finding another job within four weeks - selling advertising space for a computerised directory of services on the high street.