Friday, April 01, 2005

Good News, Bad News: Watch The Bouncing Employee

The good news is that the bad news of several weeks past wasn’t so bad after all.

One of Connecticut’s number crunchers had said that job growth in the state -- which seems incapable of shaking a bad bout of recession -- was anemic. But the numbers, as it turned out, were mistaken. In fact, job growth was three times greater than had been reported.


The bad news is that the increase in job growth will be much diminished when MetLife, as a result of its acquisition of Travelers Life & Annuity, throws a thousand or more of its Connecticut employees out of the plane without a parachute. Once again, a promising merger has resulted in – What do they call it now? – mass firings. Wait, that language seems too blunt, too raw. How about this: The acquisition and merger has resulted in downsizings?

Downsized employees will feel less put upon with the velvet-gloved verbiage.

The good news is that the bigwigs at Snoopy’s company plan to sit down and hash the matter over with Governor Jodi Rell, who is said to be disturbed by reports that MetLife intends to fire/downsize such a large number of Connecticut’s workers.

Scheech! And they aren’t even unionized.

The bad news is that Rell, at her most persuasive, will not be able to change MetLife’s long term business plan, which likely will involve more firings – sorry, downsizings – followed by consolidations, followed by more firings.

“Merge, fire, merge, fire, merge, fire…” said a janitor at a downtown Hartford branch of a large bank when he was asked several years ago, “How’s business?” A short time later, the janitor himself was merged, then fired.

But wait, the good news is that after the shakers and movers at MetLife stop shaking and moving, the net loss in jobs for Connecticut may be, according to one optimistic estimate, close to zero.

And if anyone believes that, I have an insurance policy I’d like to sell them.

Oh to be a fly on the wall eavesdropping on the conversation between Rell and the merger and acquisition guys.

Scene: The law offices of Nasty Brutish & Short, where the governor and MetLife officials are meeting to resolve the issue.

Rell: Okay guys, let’s not beat about the bush. Whaddya want?

One of the Guys: Well, for starters you can tell Attorney General Blumenthal and that Hun from New York to bug off. We’re getting tired of their endless shakedowns. These litigation mad AG’s cost us lots of money, which, I may add, we’d rather give to our stockholders – or, on a good day, to our employees. How do these people think we pay our worker’s salaries?

Rell: Gentlemen, please. I’m a governor, not God. You can’t expect me to pull the reins on Blumenthal when there are no reins on him. It’s a free country, no?

Another Guy: That’s why we’re merging and downsizing -- because it’s a free country, yes?

Rell: Whaddya want?

Another Guy: Fewer lawsuits, lower taxes, a more favorable business climate. Despite our reputation, we really don’t like lobbyists you know. We regard them as a necessary evil in an environment in which the prosperity of over regulated businesses depends upon the kindness of mercurial legislators. We’d much rather a situation in which unimpeded market forces determine our business plans. But sometimes it’s not a free country, no?

Rell, a motherly tone infusing her voice and a tear glistening in her eye: You know, I remember a time in Connecticut when whole families used to work for Travelers Insurance Company, secure in the knowledge that jobs would be there for their sons and daughters and nephews and nieces… the little red umbrella… the socially conscious past presidents of Travelers and Aetna, Mother Aetna, all contributing to the well-being of their employees and the great city of Hartford…

A semi-obscene chortling fills the room.

Last Guy Standing: Yup, nostalgia; it’s a killer. Tell ya what Gov., we understand your limitations: a legislature that couldn’t control spending to save its life -- not that its life will ever be in jeopardy; beady-eyed, ravenous lawyers; the drift of your state away from reliance on consumption taxes towards payroll taxes; the flight of companies from Connecticut towards more friendly business environments… you know, the whole schmere. We get it! We know that governors and mayors don’t matter all that much in the global village. So, why don’t we do this: Let’s put some lipstick on this pig and get outta here. Our PR people can write up a press release that saves all our skins and gives the appearance that the issue has been resolved to the benefit of all. Then we can get home in time for supper. Whaddya say?

The governor’s tear slides down her peaches and cream cheek, shattering like broken glass on the highly polished room sized conference table of the law offices of Nasty Brutish and Short.

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