Human Capital & Careers

Over Here, Over There, Job Cuts Everywhere

Carmakers lead the way, with General Motors, Nissan, and Toyota paring tens of thousands of positions.
Stephen TaubFebruary 13, 2009

There was the usual round of sizable layoffs this week, but this time, most of the headline-grabbing cuts were made by overseas companies, led by automakers.

The biggest U.S. workforce reduction was also announced by a car company: General Motors said it will shed 10,000 white-collar jobs.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that GM is offering retirement incentives to 22,000 of its 62,000 United Auto Workers union members as part of a turnaround plan it must present to the U.S. government by Tuesday. The paper said the company would be happy if half of these workers took the offer, citing a person familiar with GM’s thinking.

Caterpillar Inc., meanwhile, said it is offering a voluntary early retirement incentive package to about 2,000 production employees. That plan is in addition to the company’s workforce reduction of 22,000 announced last month.

“We recognize these are extremely difficult and uncertain times for our employees,” said Sid Banwart, Caterpillar vice president with responsibility for the Human Services Division. “In offering this package, our intent is to provide eligible employees the opportunity to retire early, as we expect significant declines in all geographic regions in most industries due to difficulties in the global economy.”

Elsewhere in the United States, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., one of the only retailers to fare well during the current downturn, said it is cutting 700 to 800 jobs at its Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club home offices in a bid to realign its corporate structure and reduce costs, according to Reuters.

The lost jobs will be in merchandising, real estate and marketing in the Wal-Mart U.S. division, as well as merchandising positions at the Sam’s Club warehouse division, according to the report.

“We will continue to take appropriate steps to further align our support structure with our business plans,” said Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke in a memo obtained by Reuters. “We must also challenge costs in every corner of the company in order to keep our business strong today and well into the future.”

FedEx Freight, a unit of FedEx Corp., said it will cut about 900 jobs at 130 facilities, according to the Memphis Business Journal.

The paper said employees were informed about the cuts in an e-mail sent on Thursday by FedEx Freight CEO Doug Duncan, who said a continued decline in consumer spending and overall industrial production has put unprecedented pressures on the trucking industry.

“It’s the worst I have seen in my 30-plus years in this business,” Duncan reportedly stated. “The outstanding value proposition and customer service that our team delivers every day is still growing significant market share, but not sufficiently to counter deep declines in our base customer volumes.”

KV Pharmaceutical Co. said it will cut 700 workers from a combination of terminations and layoffs. The company, which said the action is part of an overall cost-cutting program, has been rocked by a number of product recalls in just the past few months and faces a number of lawsuits.

KV added it expects to recall some employees when production and shipment of approved products resume.

While most job cuts in the United States numbered in the hundreds, not thousands, the story was different overseas.

Nissan Motor Co. said it would cut 20,000 jobs, though none in the United States beyond those previously announced, the Associated Press reported. Toyota Motor, however, said it is offering buyouts to about 18,000 workers in United States. It also plans to freeze wages and cut pay for factory executives and eliminate bonuses for all salaried employees, according to Bloomberg, citing an e-mailed statement late Thursday.

Also in Japan, Pioneer Corp. said it will cut 10,000 jobs globally, citing falling sales of car audio equipment and flat-screen TVs.

Alcatel-Lucent said it plans to cut 1,000 managerial jobs worldwide, including 450 managers in North America, according to a U.K.-based website.

Over in Finland, UPM-Kymmene Corp., the world’s largest magazine paper maker, said it will temporarily lay off 1,220 workers, according to the AP.

And ArcelorMittal said job cuts could exceed a previously planned total of 9,000, according to AFP.