[Marxism] Even in uncertainty, workers can manage their fears, guilt

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Tue Nov 22 06:35:22 MST 2005



Even in uncertainty, workers can manage their fears, guilt

November 22, 2005






Rich Garbacz, 53, of Canton has spent 35 years working for GM. People at the
plant were hit hard by the announcement, he said. Some even cried. Staying
busy and starting with a new job search can help them and others avoid
depression, experts say.

Special report:

*	. More coverage of GM cuts

Related articles:

*	. 5 ways to bounce back and feel more in control

Mark Barker, a press operator at a General Motors stamping plant in Lansing,
walked in to work Monday morning and learned that he will soon be out of a
job. GM will close his plant in 2006.

"If I was to retire now, I'm good for 10 years," said Barker, a 47-year-old
Muir resident. "But what happens in 10 years, when you factor in inflation?
I'm not ready to retire."

About 30,000 General Motors workers are heading into Thanksgiving with
uncertain futures after the automaker announced a restructuring Monday that
includes a dozen plant closings.

The next several months will bring additional stress for even more workers.
Experts say those who are not losing jobs may feel guilt over being spared
cuts their friends must endure.

Barker said morale was low Monday, and that many of his coworkers are close
to retirement age, but had hoped to work for a while longer.

He said he feels lucky that his children are grown, and that he's saved some
for retirement. But he worries about being able to find another job, given
the condition of the auto industry.

Because he has 29 years of seniority, he can transfer to another job within
GM. But he knows he could still face hardship.

"We've seen the writing on the wall," he said. People at his plant knew that
closing was likely. "I'm going to ride it out and see what happens."

Those who are keeping their jobs will be watching closely to see how the
company treats those who are being cut loose, said Susan Hodgkinson,
president of the Personal Brand Co. and a Boston-based career coach. "They
internalize this, and it affects the future climate of an organization."

For workers losing their jobs, the most natural and unhealthy thought
accompanying job loss is self-blame, said Wayne State industrial
psychologist Gary Lichtman, who has gone through a layoff himself.

"It is not a rational thought," he added. "Even though there are 29,999
people who are also losing their jobs, they always think it's something they

"Initially, it will be a real downer. But if they can get some rapid
intervention, keep busy and get going with a new job search, it will help
avoid depression."

Lichtman said younger workers would be able to bounce back more easily.

"The younger you are when this happens, the better off you are," he said.

"Younger people are better able to absorb this. There is less of a feeling
of entitlement. They can't say, 'I have given 30 years of my life to this

"You can recover. You have to. You just have to. The quicker you learn that,
the easier it gets each time."

Whether workers receive financial packages to sustain them for a while will
largely determine how well they cope, Lichtman added.

GM is holding those details close to its vest.

"It's too early to tell what we will do now," GM spokesman Stefan Weinmann
said. "We are starting to work with the UAW and other unions to determine
how we will implement plans specifically."

He said a large number of job cuts will be accomplished through attrition
and early retirement.

"We will work with our unions on programs because we want to mutually agree
on as much as possible," he said.

He said UAW members have benefits that include counseling, and that workers
at the affected facilities will also have human resources representatives
available to answer questions and determine what services are available to

Weinmann said morale is tenuous at best.

"Certainly, this is a difficult decision. There's no doubt," he said. "This
is not a decision we have made lightly, but at the same time, we really had
no choice. We have to be competitive.

"If we implement the plan properly, there is a high confidence level that
the company is profitable and growing."

Contact MARGARITA BAUZA at 313-222-6823 or mbauza at freepress.com.


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