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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail