The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

The #Unipart #Automotive story – Last man standing?

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TitanicEvery day, it seems, there is a new take on the continuing saga detailing the impending demise of Unipart. Today, Tyrepress reports that yet a new bidder has stepped into the ring, whilst the previous front runners like  ECP have now slightly receded in the race for acquiring the market share of the struggling titan.

What still remains unclear, is what the future holds for Unipart’s employees. Will a rescue deal mean they still have jobs? Whatever happens, it seems a certainty that there will be job losses. But the ongoing lack of information and communication is compounding an already distressing situation for hundreds of employees.

I can’t help but think of the sinking of Titanic in this context. No one wanted to believe that the unthinkable would happen: That an unsinkable ship would end up doing exactly that. The incomprehensible denial of the facts resulted in chaotic disaster management. The partying on board continued unabated until the ship was listing so badly that there was no choice but to accept that it was, in fact, definitely going to sink.

What happened next was very similar to what is going on in Unipart at the moment: Immediately, some people opted to jump ship and seek their own fortunes under their own steam, literally leaping off the deck into the freezing waters. Others opted to fight for a place on a life boat, of which there were far too few for the numbers on board. Yet others decided to keep on partying, patently accepting their undeniable fate with great British (most of them, anyway) aplomb. And finally, the band kept on playing as the ship went down.

I see several similarities here, the biggest concern of which, for me, is the race for life boats.

Those who have already decided to take the leap managed to extract themselves from the contest and hopefully, have secured jobs that will sustain their careers and livelihoods. I am pleased to say I have assisted a few of those.

There will also be those, like the band on Titanic, who stay stalwart until the end, regardless of how the end may look for Unipart. At worst, it will result in their redundancy and at best, a benevolent acquisition will mean secured futures through TUPE.

However, as soon as information about any major decisions hit the news, the scramble for the available jobs in the market will mean carnage. Just as it did for those seeking salvage on Titanic’s lifeboats.

When the recession hit in 2009 and all the motor and parts manufacturers announced major redundancy programs, the market was flooded with far more experienced people than the jobs market could sustain. Not all of them got jobs right away. Some had to take massive drops in pay to remain employed, often in jobs that did not match their qualifications nor experience. This hampered their future job searches. Some struggled for years to find jobs, having to retrain in order to remain employed. Some (Like me!) became self-employed. Others, even now, are still job hunting. Salaries were driven down, retention rates suffered and the actual cost of hiring for companies went up due to the volumes of applications and miss-hires involved.

Losing one’s job is equally as distressing as suffering a bereavement or getting divorced. It is necessary to deal with the associated grief constructively in order to move on. I believe that, for Unipart’s employees, there will be a great deal of personal challenge involved in coping with the change and shock.

Future employers should factor this in. Chasing and harrassing already stressed people by phone (Sadly, a factor that is pre-eminent in aftermarket recruitment) is rubbing salt into the wounds. Why should people who are still loyal and emotionally bonded to Unipart through complex psychological contracts, respond to aggressive telesales style headhunt calls? I know several who will prefer to be the last man standing as the ship goes down, than to be seen as abandoning their team and their post.

The reality of their situation is starting to dawn on Unipart employees. They should be looking for employers who will value them, treating them with dignity and respect as they exit a difficult situation. They need to find employers who will support them through their change processes. Employers who will look to the long term and offer career advancement opportunities and a brighter future. Regardless of the fact that job losses are looming, Unipart employees deserve the right to make their own choices.

That way, the likelihood of making good choices based on facts rather than bad choices based on desperation, is a lot higher.

But soon, a choice must be made. I would urge Unipart staff to think carefully about what they do next. “Every man for himself” is still an adage that holds firm. It’s great to be remembered for standing at attention whilst the ship went down. But it’s better to be remembered for making positive choices that resulted in good outcomes for everyone concerned.

There are employers in the UK parts aftermarket who care about their staff, who have capital to invest and who have strong, profitable businesses based on the quality of their people. The Parts Alliance (Owned by Hg Automotive) are one of those. Contact me if you want to know more.

But make a decision soon. Once the race for lifeboats start, it may be too late.

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Written by Cathy Richardson

July 22, 2014 at 9:29 am

Posted in Recruitment

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