FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Merry Christmas, You’re Fired

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

During the holiday season it is always good to be reminded of one’s many blessings. In the case of UBS employees they can be thankful that they work for UBS and not Sanofi-Aventis. The news they received shortly before Christmas is far less upsetting than the news many employees at Sanofi-Aventis received. UBS employees were told how to dress for work. Sanofi employees were told they were no longer working. First Sanofi.

Sanofi has a tradition of firing people at a time when spirits are high and news of the fact that one no longer has a job is not as traumatic as it would be at a time when there is no other reason to be happy. The most recent occurrence came right after Thanksgiving. According to Laura Bassett of Huffington Post, on November 30 of this year, employees received “happy thanksgiving” messages from the company that included a request that the employees check their e-mails at 5 AM on December 2. The 5 AM e-mail told the recipients to call a toll free number at either 8AM or 8:30AM. Those calling at 8AM were told they were still employees of the company and the 1700 employees who called at 8:30 were told they were no longer employees and should leave their desks immediately. A spokesman for the company, skilled in the art of understatement, said “We acknowledged in the call that delivering this news on a teleconference wasn’t ideal but given the scope and scale of the reductions, there was no other way to share this news quickly and consistently.” That seems a bit odd since it has had plenty of experience with laying people off and it would seem it might have discovered a better way to do it. In April 2010, following the Easter weekend, it sent an e-mail to 400 of its employees notifying them that they were being fired. In doing that it was following the tradition it had started at Thanksgiving time in 2008 when it fired a number of its employees. It also took advantage of the July 4, 2009 weekend to rid itself of chaff, and again at Thanksgiving that same year when it fired 750 employees. It took advantage of the 2009-holiday season to fire many of its contract pharmaceutical sales reps. Those who work at Sanofi are probably grateful that there are not more holidays. UBS employees are probably grateful that all they got in anticipation of the holiday season was a 43-page book telling them how to dress.

In a tract, whose guidelines bring to mind the blue suit-white shirt days at IBM, UBS has established appearance guidelines for its Swiss retail banking staff. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the intent is to “-re-establish confidence in the Swiss bank’s brand and mending relations with clients.” Re-established confidence was needed following recent news about the bank’s finances. In the fourth quarter the outflow from the bank of the “Wealth Management and Swiss Bank” division was Sfr. 33 billion. The “Wealth Management Americas” division lost Sfr.12 billion and the “Global Asset Management division had an outflow of Sfr. 11 billion. UBS also paid a $780 million fine imposed by the IRS under a deferred-prosecution agreement entered into in 2009. Any bank confronted with such problems was smart to try to regain public support by having its employees dress nicely and look good. The 43-page book is clearly the solution. Here are some of its suggestions and just reading them makes me want to go and open an account there.

Employees are told to wear suits in dark grey, black or navy blue since these colors “symbolize competence, formalism and sobriety.” (Women often wear bright reds, pinks, blues, and other colors that inspire in the on-looker feelings of frivolity not usually associated with banking.) Women are advised that “light makeup consisting of foundation, mascara and discreet lipstick . . . will enhance your personality.” The book says both men and women can increase their popularity with well cared for hair and a stylish haircut. Men are told that underwear should be of good quality and easily washable but be undetectable. It is not clear in what circumstances the bank’s customers would be privy to male employees’ skivvies although it is possible that in the super secret vaults access to things other than bank boxes may take place.

In recognition of the importance to the Swiss of wristwatches, employees are encouraged to wear wristwatches. Wrist watches, says the booklet, suggest “reliability and great care for punctuality.” Older employees are told coloring hair to retain a youthful appearance is a mistake since youthful hair and aged skin are a poor match and don’t fool anyone.

A spokesman for the bank said the guidelines might appear very detailed, and “in line with Swiss precision” an observation with which most readers would agree. Some might even call them anal. Whatever you call them, they are a lot better than the e-mails received by Sanofi workers telling them they were no longer employed by anyone.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail