Living with Layoffs

When I started work in Ottawa in 1997, it was during the ramp up of the tech bubble. Something exciting was happening everywhere. I shared an apartment with the founder of Linux Chix. Corel was competing against Microsoft with Linux, and was producing the Sidewinder. You could get a job anywhere. Companies were doing massive hiring. Nortel hired 1000 new grads in one weekend and competing with Cisco. Startups were everywhere.

Soon after I started, our division starting having free pizza on Friday afternoons every quarter, then every month then every 2 weeks. The cafeteria was open 24 hours a day.

We would receive $2000 USD for every resume we could bring that led to a hiring. Filing for a patent was worth $5000 USD and having the patent meant a $7000 USD bonus. Everyone was getting stock options, which was such a thrill even thought they took years to vest. Just like the book “Microserfs”.

Our director had a room created in our building with a large screen TV, DVD player, pool table and a leather couch. The room was badge-locked so only members of our division had access.

In 2000, that all changed. The wireless auction prices were sky-high. Our customers seemed less likely to be able to create enough revenue to pay off the bank loans required to buy the wireless spectrum. The high-speed optical build-outs were slowing as much of the optical bandwidth stayed dark, which led to other cuts.

Banks cut loans, customers cut back on spending, and the layoffs started at work.

In the fall of 2001, already 30,000 had been cut from the payroll. We watched 9/11 on the TV in the room our director had built. Six weeks later, our department was cut, and I was out of a job.

I was lucky and was brought back to work in late winter 2002, this time in CDMA Wireless.

I have been in CDMA Wireless since then.

WiMax equipment
WiMax equipment

Our business has continued to cut every year. We had to re-file our financial results (over and over), and the cuts kept coming. And the penny-pinching kept coming – death by a thousand cuts. They cut the milk for the coffee and then they cut the coffee. The cleaning staff was cut, and now we don’t eat in our office because the food waste is only collected once a week.

Since 2000, over 60,000 have lost their job at work. That’s more than the population of Moncton, NB. Another 3200 people were cut in February; friends I’ve worked with for years were cut.

I’m 38.5 years old. The corporation has been cutting jobs for 8.5 years. I’ve been living with the uncertainty of keeping my job for over 22% of my entire lifetime. Almost a quarter of my life has been living with layoffs.

I spent less time in high school. I spent less time in University, even after changing my major in my third year.

I am so tired of living this way.

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