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
December 03, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Obama’s Legacy
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Christopher Brauchli
Parallel Lives: Trump and Temer
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail