In the past fifteen months, I have twice been made redundant.
The first one was actually easier to bear because I knew that my direct line manager had it in for me. I was effectively working alone, not in an office so it was relatively easy for him to direct the flow of information. Unlike others, I was not asked to reapply for my post but instead transferred across to a new cost centre within the company. What I did not know is that was one due to be cut once the contract I was working on came to an end. After what was to become my final job, I was called into the Stavanger office and by conference call my employment ended there and then. No discussion or chance of appeal.
Working as I was, officially out of Italy, posted in Israel but for the last two years on secondment to Norway, I did not challenge the legality of the decision. Which national court would I apply to for starters? It was unpleasant but in a way okay because it was personal animosity on his part. It was not my job performance: I knew what I did and did it well. I was the first out the door but soon many of my former colleagues were also unemployed and the industry started its decline.
Within seven weeks, I had joined a new company and I really enjoyed my time with them. It was also convenient: usually one has to live within a major oil town to live close to such a job. In was remarkable that I found one in Edinburgh less than a couple of kilometres from the house.
Losing this last job is a lot harder to bear because I actually liked the people I worked with and I liked the work. So to be judged as lacking compared to others who joined about the same time is a pretty bitter pill. I guess at my age I am a slower learner on what are very difficult-to-use computer systems (we are not talking Apple or MS Windows here!). I was partially hired for my previous industry experience but that does not seem to have mattered much when it came down to the crunch.
The worst thing about this time is that the whole industry is down. As a noted in a previous blog, there are huge redundancies ongoing across oil and gas on a global basis - 65,000 around the North Sea alone. The problems have been compounded here by the Conservative government's slashing of support for renewable energy. An area that may have been natural for people in my position to transfer sideways into is also undergoing major jobs losses.
Unless something unexpected turns up, it looks like my time in the energy industry has come to an end.
Having undergone both the US-style same-day chop, and the British one-month staff consultation and selection process, which one is easier to bear? Actually I think it is the American system. It may be more brutal but the fact it is unexpected means the shock does not last as long. Soon over and done. The UK system of announcing upcoming redundancies, going through consultations and publishing the selection criteria may be fairer but it is unbelievably stressful for all those who even suspect they are in line to be axed. The worst thing about it is the hope, the selfish hope that it won't be yourself but some other poor bastard. I tried so hard to kill any hope but just could not. As a society, we are expected to be positive and negativity is frowned upon. It is almost impossible to stay positive under such circumstances. Anybody who manages it simply does not care about the job they hold.
I was told yesterday afternoon that I was one of those who had been selected. I wish I could have been more decent about it but that was beyond me. Last night was pretty horrible. It's the anger that is unable to express itself in some destructive outlet with is difficult to cope with. Of course, it is this same anger when mixed with guns that leads to the explosive and tragic violence that is seen in the United States. But it is the impersonal system that is at the root of the matter. The people who sacked me are lovely - it would be better for my own sanity if I could resent and hate them. I have little doubt that their methodology was fair but the outcome is only for the company's benefit: it does not feel at all fair to the people who have lost their jobs. The whole process is easier on those who make the decisions and of course feels better for those who stay on.
It is perhaps word-association that led me to think of James Cameron's movie The Terminator. I had never thought of it as an allegory before but really it is. Human beings develop a system that turns against them with an implacable and relentless logic. Humanity is no longer necessary to the system and thus they are subjected to termination. It is our creation of systems that have their own logic, without regard for the human impact, that necessitates the need for such a concept as "fairness". Within the terms of the industry, my former employers are being very fair and above board. It is the system as a whole that is not easy on people.
One thing that is definitely not fair is the government extending the period where new workers have no employment rights to two years. I have invested over a year in this job and effectively have no rights whatsoever. Six months is probably enough to see whether an individual is on the right track for a given job; a year is ample time.
I have to admit I did freak out a Texan friend when on Facebook last night I put up the status: "I finally understand The Terminator". Her reply was "Wow. Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold."
I'm trying Shannon.
Oh, and if anybody would like to offer me employment, please get it contact.