Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Global recession costs 80,000 jobs a day
The depth of the global recession was glimpsed yesterday when almost 80,000 jobs were lost or put under threat in the UK, Europe and US, making it one of the bleakest days in recent memory.
Household names, including electronics retailer Philips, construction equipment maker Caterpillar, and drug group Pfizer announced thousands of job losses, with many of them expected to be lost in the UK. Steel company Corus, for instance, is axing 2,500 British workers as it dumps 3,500 worldwide.
Even the expensive retailer Fortnum & Mason is suffering. It emerged yesterday that the department store, which can trace its roots back to 1705 at its London flagship in Piccadilly, wants to cut 100 of its 530 staff as shoppers seek out cheaper alternatives to products such as its £500 picnic hampers stuffed with champagne, vintage marmalade and smoked salmon.
The scale of the challenge faced by world leaders as they grapple with the worst downturn since the second world war was underlined yesterday when Gordon Brown issued a stark warning that the global economy would be undermined unless countries worked together to tackle the crisis. The prime minister said the world needed to "ensure that we do not experience a new form of financial protectionism, of mercantilism, of retreat into domestic financial markets".
In the US, where General Motors cut 2,000 jobs, Barack Obama warned that it was imperative Congress passed his $825bn (£590bn) package of spending and tax cuts as soon as possible. "We cannot afford distractions," he said. "We cannot afford delays in getting legislation to boost the economy through Congress."
Research from the Institute of Directors showed British business leaders were not only pessimistic about their companies' prospects but had recently seen a marked deterioration in performance.
"In previous IoD surveys, companies were saying 'it's going to be hell out there in the future but we're not doing too badly at present'. Now they're saying the problem is much closer to home," said the IoD chief economist and director of policy, Graeme Leach. "We're a long way into the financial crisis, but the economic crisis is only just beginning."
Managers across the UK, meanwhile, have accepted their own redundancy as "inevitable", according to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), which has examined calls to its helpline. "Quite clearly, any suggestion that there is already light at the end of the tunnel is misplaced," said Ruth Spellman, chief executive of the CMI.
The job losses announced yesterday fell mainly across industry. Europe's largest consumer electronics company, Philips, is cutting 6,000 jobs after announcing its first loss for half a decade. US mobile phone company Spring Nextel is axing 8,000, and Pfizer is shedding 19,000.
The biggest losses announced yesterday were from Caterpillar. The Illinois-based manufacturer of heavy-duty earth-moving equipment is cutting almost 20% of its workforce, 20,000 people.
The news has raised fears for the company's 10,000 employees in the UK, which is Caterpillar's largest operation outside the US, and Ireland.
It has factories dotted across the UK from Teesside, Leicester and Peterborough to Shrewsbury and Slough. In Ireland its electricity generator business FG Wilson is Europe's largest assembler of such equipment.
A further 5,450 jobs in the footwear industry have been put under threat with the collapse of Stylo, owner of Barratts and PriceLess shoe stores.
Elsewhere, Sofa Workshop has called in administrators, putting another 170 British jobs at risk.