Implementing redundancies on a voluntary basis
ensures you lose your best people precisely when you need them most
Most of the Western world, with some commendable exceptions such as
Australia and Canada, is experiencing the worst economic downturn in
a generation. For some, such as Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, Greece, it
is probably the worst in its history. (Well, maybe not Greece
since its history stretches back at least 3,000 years, during which
anything could have have already happened, and probably did.)
Confidence has evaporated, customers are disappearing, businesses
are closing, people are losing their jobs, and meanwhile the state
is spending money faster than it can be collected from the remaining
taxpayers and functioning businesses. The resulting deficit -
the difference between expenditure and tax collection - must be met
by borrowing. This is another way of saying that future generations
- today's primary schoolchildren, kindergarten toddlers, foetuses,
the yet unconceived - are condemned by the feckless adults of today
to work and pay until their old age to pay off their elders' debts, a thoroughly disreputable practice
by those elders akin to
Since its housing bubble began to deflate in
March 2007, Ireland's budget surplus, hitherto swollen by
housing stamp duties, has, according to its Department of Finance,
turned into an ever-increasing deficit. This rose to an
eye-watering €12.6 billion (or
€2,700 per man, woman and child) during last year:
IRELAND:STATEMENTS OF EXCHEQUER
2004 and 2005 figures incorporate a correction for, incredibly,
a dropped zero as published by the
Irish Finance Department
The huge chasm between tax receipts and expenditure (27% of
expenditure in 2010) will never be resolved until public
spending is cut drastically. It is fanciful to suppose,
despite what politicians aver to the contrary, that increased taxes
(of the rich, of corporations, of anyone) will ever come close to
closing the gap, as all this will do is discourage enterprise,
constrain profits and hence reduce not increase the net tax take.
But taking the knife to public activity is excruciatingly painful
for the political masters of the civil service (equally so for
bosses in the private sector but there is much less indulgence in
the luxury of hand-wringing). Fiddling at the edges, like
restricting overtime, reducing outside contracts, cutting back on
coffee and biscuits, doesn't hurt too much, but makes no substantive
difference. In Ireland, which is probably typical of Western
countries, some 80%** of public expenditure goes on the emoluments and
benefits of its 359,000 civil servants (16% of Ireland's
2.2m workforce, up from
11% in 2002). Therefore, the abyss
can be tackled only through knocking a quarter off the wage bill,
which perforce means cutting both salaries and large numbers of
jobs, including those of the so-called front-line services - nurses,
teachers, policemen etc. This will cause the public to suffer,
which is regrettable, but it is also inevitable and to pretend that
the front-line will be kept somehow immune is both ridiculous and
**In April 2011,
Minister for Public Service Reform
claimed that €16 billion
was spent in 2010 on
“goods and services”,
which would leave €31 billion, or €86,000 per employee,
or 66% (rather than 80%) of expenditure,
for civil servants.
Moreover, in the past two years, Ireland's GDP has shrunk by 10% in
from $190 to $172 billion while unemployment has grown from
14.7%. Nearly all of the layoffs have fallen on the
private sector where thousands of the immigrant unemployed have
returned home and indigenous unemployed gone on the dole or emigrated. Yet in the
public sector, of all those
civil servants who used to
regulate industries now collapsed,
engineers who used to evaluate
planning permissions for now non-existent building developments,
teachers who used to teach the
children of immigrants now repatriated and fresh Irish emigrants,
medical staff who used to cater to
the needs of those now flown to other shores,
not a single one has been laid off.
How are the necessary manpower reductions to be achieved? The mantra
in Ireland, and not just in the bloated public sector, is voluntary
redundancy. From the viewpoint of both politicians and
immediate supervisors that's a nice, warm, friendly way to shed
staff. As well as normal retirees, anyone who wants to can
take the (hopefully generous) package and go, without being replaced.
From the viewpoint of running any enterprise, however, it is a policy
disaster, quite apart from the fact that it cannot possibly yield
the huge numbers of staff reductions needed.
When a voluntary redundancy scheme is offered,
who volunteers for it? Why
your best employees of course, because they are confident about
finding another job and are delighted with the windfall that the package
Who stays quiet? The duds,
because they think they're pretty much unemployable in a tough
So you accomplish exactly the opposite of what you need.
You're left with all the non-performers at a time when, precisely
because you've lost your high-achieving staff, the work load on
those who remain has disproportionately increased. The work of
one high-flyer probably requires two or more low-flyers, whereas if
a low-flyer leaves, a high-flyer can probably take on his/her tasks with
Not forcing people to leave when you need to reduce your headcount
might make you feel warm, but it's madness. The purpose of an
employer in any business is to achieve business results (and pay its
taxes), not to run a social service for people who are unable make
the same level of contribution as others.
All redundancies should therefore be compulsory - but compassionate.
By that I mean the employer needs to target its weakest performers,
explain that their past work is highly appreciated even though the
business no longer requires their services, and offer them the
generous package, together with assistance in finding new work, in
exchange for agreeing to go quietly. Failure to accept the
package would ultimately mean redundancy anyway, but with only
statutory payments. In practice, few will want to try the
confrontational route. Moreover, it will be surprising how many
peoplein fact become employable when they are actually confronted with
the challenge of finding a new job.
is the other way that employers make themselves feel warm when they
need to reduce staff. You simply refrain from hiring
replacements for people who are quitting anyway, typically retirees.
The problem here is that not only are the cuts achieved over a necessarily
prolonged period, as you wait for people to reach retirement age, but it
distorts your future age profile. All those bright youngsters
you didn't hire will constitute a missing cohort of expertise,
experience and succession in the decades ahead, for which the
business will ultimately pay a heavy price.
In summary, if staff numbers must be cut, whether to secure the
survival of the business or simply because - in for example an
economy like Ireland's with a massive budget deficit - the cash is
simply not there to pay them, there is never a rational case for
implementing the redundancies on a voluntary basis.
The concept of voluntary redundancy is deeply unserious; it
Stabbing to death babies and children in their
and celebrating such infanticide
are signs of the most abject moral depravity
The Fogels were a young family with six children, who lived at the
Itamar settlement near the West Bank city of Nablus.
On 11th March two Palestinians from the village of Awarta broke into
their house and without provocation used knives to murder:
Udi Fogel (36 years old),
his wife Ruth (35) and
Elad (4) and
baby Hadas (just 3 months, her little throat slashed from ear to
Can you imagine the trauma then suffered by their twelve-year old
daughter Tamar when she returned home only to find the five bodies
of her family, plus two other wounded siblings whom she rescued?
This is part of the Palestinian
This is the fascistic depravity that the Koran demands
and that its followers deliver with smiles and laughter
while teaching and urging their children to do the same.
This is why there will never be peace between Palestinians and Jews
unless and until the Palestinians actually want it.
This is why the struggle continues
and why Israel must continue to defeat Islamism wherever it
This is why the West must unequivocally support Israel,
which as the de-facto front-line of a global war,
is in effect defending the entire West.
Meanwhile sweets are offered around to Hamas policemen and others in the
streets of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah to celebrate the
quintuple murder of five Jews.
Palestinian depravity knows no bounds. Words fail me.
Words also fail me when I view this recent interview with
Tamar Fogel, the 12-year-old daughter who discovered her
family slaughtered at home. When you think about the trauma
she endured just a week earlier,
her maturity, overall dignity and lack of rancour are truly
inspiring. Even the family's eviction by the Israeli
authorities from their home in Gaza in 2005 elicits no bitterness: her
parents told her we will not fight against our brothers, the
One of his conventional pet-hates is clearly nuclear power for which
he has the aversion shared by all such bien-pensants.
This vain man recently wrote a preposterous piece of propaganda in the
Irish Times, in which he delights in the horrors of Japan's
misery because it affords him an opportunity to push his
anti-nuclear prejudices by inventing scare-mongering fictions. Just
as a little urine ruins an entire bottle of wine, so his wilful
fabrications - which are not little - ruin any merit his article
might otherwise contain.
He says that
“in just one generation [the nuclear-power
industry] has killed, wounded or blighted the lives of many
millions of people and laid waste to millions of square miles of
Who were they, where is it? What hat did he pull these
particular (and uncited) rabbits from? I haven't a clue - and
you can be sure neither has he.
He goes on,
“there are 100 other safer ways ... to light up a bulb or
to reduce carbon emissions.”
Perhaps he could name, oh I dunno, say, just the first
half-dozen or so
“ways” that could conceivably replace the power
generated by the world's
440 commercial nuclear plants. That's a lot of windmills.
This charlatan is joyously surfing Japan's tsunami of suffering.
As such, he is a sadist as well as a mountebank.
In the age of no-George-Bush,
foreign military invasions have become perfectly acceptable
At last someone shows the way - and well ahead of the
Libyan no-fly zone.
Saudi Arabia with its neighbour and ally the UAE first secured the
enthusiastic agreement of the United Nations Security Council, the
EU, Nato and
all their international friends.
They then sent their heavily armed forces to invade a foreign
country and prop up its existing regime against rag-tag rebels who
are entirely unappreciative of the autocracy under which they live.
Happily, SA, UAE and the monarchy & élite of Bahrein are all Sunni
whereas the rebels are mostly Shi'ite.
Oh wait. No-one went anywhere near the UN or anyone else; they just
went ahead. Silly me.
I wonder when Shi'ite Iran will join the party?
Yet on the use of force
by the West, and in the light of the Libyan hostilities,
many maintain that the
imposition of military action today requires some form of
This is nonsense, as Saudi
Arabia has shown in Bahrein. Provided the arms are available, the
only essential ingredient is simple will. For
could have gone in and attacked and killed Qadaffi at any time; it would take only
days or a few weeks. So could America, France, the UK, together or
singly, and without anyone's say-so if their leaders only had the will.
Who would stop them? Russia?
China? Iran? Yeah, right!
Yet even now, in the heat of
the no-fly-zone, there is no will, either singly or collectively, to remove the essence of Libya's
command-and-control-system - the supreme leader himself. Why?
UN Security Resolution 1973 has given its permission only for
military activities that specifically eschew boots-on-the ground, and it
is considered non-cricket to bomb Q'Daffy's palaces until he's dead.
Collateral civilian deaths from bombing other more militaristic targets
are, on the other hand, perfectly acceptable if regrettable.
There is also the mistaken
belief that such an invader, having once accomplished a specified
task (such as removing or killing a leader) would have to stay and rebuild the
country á la Iraq. More nonsense. If it wants it can just go in, do the job and get
Japan's avoidable accidents make folly of nuclear energy clear Comment to an Irish Times article by
John Vidal of the Guardian
This article is just not good enough, Mr Vidal. You must at
least desist from making stuff up just to scare people. You say that
just one generation it [the nuclear-power industry] has killed, wounded or
blighted the lives of many millions of people and laid waste to millions of
square miles of land”.
Huh? Who were they, where is it? ...
Merkel and Corporation Tax Letter to the Irish Times To justify a demand that Ireland increase its corporation tax in
return for a reduction in the interest on its EU bail-out, Angela Merkel
“it is simply fair to say
we can only give our commitment when we get something in return”.
If she want fairness she should be fair to German industry by reducing
Germany's own corporation rate ...
Germany and €uro rules Letter to the Irish Times Angela Merkel's admonishment that “if we have a common currency
like the euro it can only be stable if all follow the rules” is ironic. Someone should remind her that under the euro's Stability
and Growth Pact, demanded by Germany in 1997 as a condition of supporting
the euro, no country may run a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, under pain of
“Jew! Jew!” Letter to the Sunday Times
Marie Colvin's report on the brutal sexual attack on
CBS reporter Lara Logan in Cairo said the mob shouted
“Israeli”. But you curiously
omitted the most ominous epithet,
which adds an entirely new, anti-Semitic angle to the assault, even
though Ms Logan is not a Jewess.
love me, all my people with me, they love me all ... They will die
to protect me, my people.”
Colonel Gadaffi explains why there is no
revolution going on in his country.
Moreover, he has quite reasonably asked why,
and from what position,
he should resign since he holds no position
- not president, not prime minister, not supreme leader, not
Quote: “We want logistical foreign intervention, air
embargoes, bombardments of air bases, communication centers and
supervision of the coasts.”
Muftah Queidir, a lawyer close to Benghazi's governing coalition,
makes clear what is needed to rid the Libyan people of their brutal
dictator and his vile sons.
Funny how George W Bush's Iraq policy is suddenly beginning to look
- - - - - O B A M A - - - - -
as you’re told” and “It would be so much easier to be
President of China ... No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in
President Obama displays his frustration
at heading a vibrant, free, democratic republic
instead of being a totalitarian dictator.
“The strange shrunken spectator who serves as president of
the United States.”
Mark Steyn's take on America's president.
As he caustically remarks,
“tragic event” that
“took place” seems to be
for a guy opening fire while screaming "Allahu
Quote: “I guess this will be the big story of the day: I’m
coming over. And I’m coming in May.”
President Obama threatens Ireland with a visit
I look forward to the placards at the protest
demonstrating against Obama's wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya,
his drone assassinations in Pakistan,
his incarceration of innocent terrorists in Guantanamo Bauy
- - - - U S A - - - - -
“The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
New York billboard, taken down
“reasons of public safety”
after objections form abortion advocates
NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Evidently the truth hurts
- almost as much as being aborted.
“The civil rights activists did not fight to make
[ie abortion of black foetuses]
‘safe, legal, and rare’[Bill
Clinton on abortion]... This womb-lynching has caused
more African American deaths [by a factor in the tens of thousands]
than the Klan achieved in over 144
“Yeah, I suppose I am. I forgot about that. I'm holding the
fort but I'm hoping to take the end of the week off with my kids.
Someone else will have to do it then. It sounds more haphazard than
it probably is.”
Nick Clegg, Britain's deputy prime minister,
is asked whether he is running the country
during a tour of the Middle East by David Cameron.
Mr Clegg was skiing with this family in
Switzerland at the time.
You can tell these clowns have never worked
in a proper commercial organization.
A curious headline in the Irish Independent on
St Patrick's Day.
What kind of whizz-bank ePhone is Mr Gibson
that requires him to make a booking before he can charge the
Quote: “I hope that the irony will not be lost upon you that
I stand here, on my evening of defeat, in a hall – this magnificent
sports complex – which I helped to build.”
John O'Donohue, member of the
disgraced and discredited former ruling Fianna Fail party,
a former TD, minister and Speaker of the Irish Dáil,
is at last dumped by the Irish electorate,
whom he systematically milked for his personal pleasure
for two (?) long decades.
He also used his official positions to shovel
into his Kerry constituency, in effect bribing the people
- at others' expense - to keep re-electing him.
He was speaking from one such Kerry white
This venal man was especially notorious
for his extravagant and unnecessary foreign trips and lifestyle,
all mercilessly charged to the taxpayers,
and was mystified by the fury that ensued
when his profligate antics were finally exposed by the media.
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’sincredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF