There’s a sudden flowering of blogs from public sector workers facing redundancy, setting out with splendid gallows humour how the sector is facing up to cuts. I’m an avid reader of the Redundant Public Servant’s blog, and was struck by a post by Mrs RPS about the bitterness she feels about her husband’s impending redundancy.
I saw my then boyfriend, now husband, deal with a lengthy spell of unemployment a few years ago and understand completely what Mrs RPS is talking about. The thing that really hurt was the sense of powerlessness I felt watching the person I loved most in the world deal with something so devastating without being able to do anything practical to help.
Mrs RPS, though, also reminded me of when my Dad was made redundant, after 44 years with one company, a couple of years before he was due to retire. How unfair, I ranted. How disloyal, after all you’ve done for them. Typically, my Dad didn’t join in with the ranting, but calmly pointed out that loyalty didn’t come into it – on either side. The contract between him and the company was that he would do a month’s worth of work and they would pay him for it, and if they both agreed to carry on they’d both do the same the following month. In his mind there was no issue of loyalty involved – no-one would have accused him of being disloyal to them had he found a better job and moved on. It was a purely business relationship and, from the company’s perspective, making him redundant was the logical thing to do. Taking the emotion out of it allowed him to cope pretty serenely (although I imagine that having a decent pension on the way probably helped!)
The problem is, of course, if you profoundly disagree with the business decision that leads to your job being lost. An awful lot of public servants feel – as Mrs RPS does – that these are wrong-headed decisions, with jobs being “wiped out at the whim of a government and ministers whose motivation I deeply suspect. For a doctrine I believe is essentially flawed.” I completely agree with her. No wonder you can feel anger and hurt bubbling through her post.
It does seem that the process isn’t being made any easier to deal with by the way it’s being handled. My eye was caught by a blog detailing how one local government department was given a redundancy notice, without warning, by mass email. An agency I worked with, which was cut when the quangos were culled, reports that no help or advice has been forthcoming about how to go about winding up a business, no re-training opportunities have been highlighted, no careers counselling offered. That’s where I think you can start to complain about disloyalty. Cutting a job, a team, even a whole department is, as my Dad would point out, a dispassionate business decision. Cutting people adrift with no support is wrong.