Nortel Insider – by Desk Jockey

The view from one Desk Jockey

The real tragedy behind Nortel

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With all the talk about bankruptcy and other doomsday scenarios, it’s clear that Nortel is turning out to be the business Titanic of its time.   While Nortel makes for a dramatic “rise and fall” story there is also one story – the real story – that gets lost in the headlines.  This is the story of the average employee.

Who is the average employee? It is the person that thought Nortel had come full circle from its dot-com debacle and accounting scandals and signed up to continue/start their career.  It is the person who has been a loyal company employee since they started working 20+ years ago.  It is even the person who emigrated from a foreign land to find opportunity in the field of telecom work.  These are the people that make up Nortel and for the most part they are honest, intelligent and hard working people.

It is these people who will suffer most from the demise of Nortel. Not the shareholders and not the creditors and certainly not the GEnius executive team.  Thus it is somewhat tragic that the people who have the most to lose in Nortel have the least say in how the situation transpires.

Even more sad is that how bad your situation can be is almost fully dependent on how loyal you have been to the company.  If you’ve stuck with Nortel through thick and thin you have certainly amassed a sizable pension that you and your family depend on for survival through retirement.  Now that very resource that you worked so hard to earn may be in jeopardy.

In particular, I was most struck by this comment recently posted on AAN:

“Those of us that have 100k plus in the pension sadly resign ourselves to the fact, we will never see it, only getting pennies on the dollar. In our department alone, poeple are actively seeking employment else where to try to get the pension before bankruptcy is declared . Sadly, it probably too late.”

By now, many people are likely wondering, “why didn’t you get out earlier?”  The answer isn’t simple, but there are a variety of reasons.  Firstly, moving is hard if one has a family and other life obligations.  Furthermore, Nortel is not a bad company in terms of people.  We are aware of many colleagues who were a pleasure to work with.  And lastly, changing your life based on something that might happen was out of the question.  However, we now know differently, so perhaps an “I told you so” is in order.

This is how bad the situation has become.  No longer are people “waiting to get the (severance) package” as many realize that time has come and gone.  It is certain that if they allowed people to volunteer to be one of the 1300 laid off this week that the number of requests would far exceed the alloted space.  No, the question has now become, “Will Nortel survive long enough for me to see my pension?”

This is the true story of the Nortel situation.  Not one of glamourous headlines and criminal CEOs, but instead one of regular folk trying hard to survive during hardships.

Written by Desk Jockey

November 15, 2008 at 1:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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