Financial commitment to employees is absent

There have been a number of late submissions extolling or at least defending the virtues of our current global economy. Jerome Gessaroli, who teaches at the School of Business at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and is a visiting scholar at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, wrote: “There is strong evidence and history that companies that put shareholders and profits first not only thrive, but contribute to the greater good. Replacing shareholder primacy will undermine the discipline of the market that forces managers to act competitively and use corporate resources efficiently – the very things that create wealth, GDP growth and a thriving society. A statement of motherhood veiled by the complete absence of supporting research which usually includes the manipulation of data, charts, surveys and projections.

The key element missing from Mr. Gessaroli’s statement is that wealth and a thriving society are aimed at a very small part of society, namely corporate executives and shareholders. Ask a Tim Horton employee how shareholder value has increased their personal wealth. Ask the employees of General Electric, when Jack Welch ranked his employees and fired the bottom 10% every year. Ask employees of Sunbeam’s notorious psychopath “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, who loved layoffs and plant closures, what they think about the competitive use of company resources.

Annual reports published by major corporations proudly proclaim their fair treatment of employees as a core value. As loud as a company touts the value of its employees, its financial commitment to its employees is absent. In short, employees are valued like toilet paper. After being used and discarded when no longer of value.

Susan Hargrove of Burlington makes another key point when she writes: “Remember inflation is global, not Canadian, so there’s not much more government can do. This, when combined with the earlier discussion of the value of employees, frames the root cause of our dilemma today.

The global economy has a systemic belief that statements made by people like Mr. Gessaroli should be accepted without question as a “sermon from the mountain”. Governments around the world are being overwhelmed with data, charts and forecasts offered by economists paid to lobby on behalf of corporations – the snake oil sellers of this millennium. My favorite phrase is that liars do numbers and numbers lie. The general public is too preoccupied with how to get a minimum paying first, second or third job in order to meet the doubling of their housing and food costs to even think or care about it.

Heather Mallick, columnist for The Star, recently wrote: “I yearn for the days when there were enough employees to get things done with grace and speed. It just reaffirms how incapable companies are of finding, hiring, or retaining employees.

I’m grateful, but not grateful, to be retired, and I was fortunate enough to work for almost 35 years at a time when the company I worked for contributed to my retirement through a defined benefit pension. This, among other benefits, made me loyal, working 50-60 hours a week (no overtime) for over 35 years. The pension allows me a measure of financial stability in my remaining years. It seems strangely ironic that politicians are quick to point the finger at a worker and demand that he save for retirement and wait longer for Old Age Security benefits, while at the same time the taxes paid by the working poor fund politicians’ pensions which begin as soon as they leave office, regardless of their age.

So maybe we could look forward to the days when people mattered more than profits and employee loyalty mattered more than shareholder value. The acquisition and retention of employees would be much less of a problem and the well-being of the company would be greatly improved.

Jim Gillatly is a resident of Ancaster.

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