Downsizing or Wrongsizing
"In The Know" - Nancy Leeson, Local 727
I am currently a member of the Joint Health and Safety Committee and therefore try and keep up on all the current health and safety issues in the workplace. One way we maintain our knowledge is to read the OHS Canada magazine. I was reading one issue dated March 2005 and in there was an article that really hit home for us in the Ontario Public Service (OPS). The article was called "Downsizing or Wrongsizing?" I encourage everyone to read it, as it really tells it how it is, and I see these problems happening in our workplace now. We have gone through a lot of downsizing over the years and it seems to be a never-ending topic over these last ten years.
The article talks about how downsizing not only affects our jobs, but also our health which includes anxiety, depression, sleep problems, burnout and heart disease - that seemed almost unbelievable. They had statistics to back this up though: Within four years of a major downsizing there was a significant increase by five-fold in incidence of heart attacks. It is not the people who leave, but the people who stay that are affected the most. It can take six to 12 months before people start to feel right again, but if there are any changes or talk of changes then the feeling people have never goes away (have there ever not been talks of layoffs in the OPS?).
There is also an increase in injuries, but the short periods of absences fell (people felt they couldn't afford to be sick at the risk of losing their jobs), and long term sick leave rose by 16 to 31 per cent. Ontario Health Management Solutions predicts by the year 2020 there will be more disability claims related to mental disabilities than physical disabilities.
People who are not laid off after a downsizing react with anger, sadness, diminished trust and job satisfaction, and increased job strain. Survivors are not usually able to keep up the pace, they develop a short fuse, become withdrawn, irritable, or quick to cry, and former good employees become less interested in "putting out an effort". When a place is downsized, there is a heavier demand placed on those that are left, yet they lose control over key areas of personal activity. Does this not hit home? As just another body in the organization, employees are offered less discretion in how best to apply initiative or to influence the decisions being imposed.
When I read this article, it seemed to describe our workplace perfectly. We, union and management, are all negatively affected by the downsizing and it is not getting any better. They do state that if downsizing is necessary, it should be handled by keeping all workers in the loop and up-to-date about the process and they will suffer less. It seems the government does not care about the health and welfare of its workers, as secrecy is its most important thing. Yes, they warn us about the layoffs - but there are no deadlines, and we just wonder if maybe it will be one of us next. No doubt at all, our health is deteriorating and they are responsible!
Wrongsizing is most certainly true. Quit making us sick! ©