Category Archives: recession

Pfizer Program To Provide Free Medication To Unemployed In US

Pfizer, Inc. is announcing a new program on Thursday that will help those who have lost their jobs and health insurance remain on their medications.
The program will allow those who have been taking Pfizer medications including Lipitor and Viagra to receive the pills for up to a year free of charge.

The company will be providing more than 70 of its prescription drugs to Americans who became unemployed and uninsured regardless of what their prior income was as of January 1. To qualify a patient would have had to have been on the medicine prior to October 2008.

New York Daily Times reports:

“Everybody knows now a neighbor, a relative who has lost their job and is losing their insurance. People are definitely hurting out there,” Dr. Jorge Puente, Pfizer’s head of pharmaceuticals outside the U.S. and Europe and a champion of the project, told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Wednesday. “Our aim is to help people bridge this point.”

To sign up for the program applicants have to sign a statement saying that they are having a financial burden and provide a “pink slip” or some form from their former employer. The program will accept applications until December 31 and those accepted will be provided up to 12 months or until the person is covered by insurance.

Patients may call 866-706-2400 to sign up for the program or sign on to PfizerHelpfulAnswers.com.

Pfizer has seven programs that offer free or reduced cost medication.

Pfizer employees proposed the idea to the company’s senior leadership team last month. The employees have also donated some of their own money to help with the costs and the Pfizer Foundation is matching those donations.

“The current economic environment has added considerable new stress to the daily life of millions of hard-working Americans, and our colleagues are responding to help their neighbors in the communities where they reside,” said Jeffrey B. Kindler, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer. “The speed with which we created and approved this program is proof of our commitment to help people access the medicines they need to live healthier lives. With the launch of this initiative, which I am proud to say was proposed by our colleagues, we are doing what we can to ensure that recent loss of employment does not preclude people from managing their health.”

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Chrysler Entering Bankruptcy Protection

President Barack Obama is due to make a statement on the future of the US car maker. Obama has said that the company would become stronger after any move into bankruptcy protection.
Chrysler is entering bankruptcy protection after failing to get their debtors to write off their debts.

The move almost guarantees that the company will be given billions of state loans if they could restructure the business by midnight Wednesday.

Obama is set to speak at noon about the Chrysler situation, appearing with members of his auto task force.

According to sources for the Globe and Mail, the car maker will be gaining $15 billion from both the US and Canadian governments to help Chrysler survive through bankruptcy protection.

On Thursday morning it is expected that the signing of a strategic alliance with Fiat SpA imminent.

Fiat will take a 20-per-cent stake in Chrysler.

The company will be split into two companies with its key Canadian operation placed with the part of the company that will form the basis for the Fiat-Chrysler strategic alliance. Unwanted assets will be placed into another operation.

Yesterday Chrysler released a LLC Statement in Response to UAW Ratification of Contract.

We are thankful to the Chrysler UAW members for their support in ratifying this contract, especially during these challenging times. This was a necessary step as we move forward in revitalizing this great Company. Today’s vote enables us to continue our work to meet the conditions laid out by the U. S. Treasury Department. The entire Chrysler leadership team believes in and appreciates the men and women that make up our great workforce worldwide.”

The members of the United Auto Workers have ratified a settlement deal with Chrysler. The vote was 82 per cent of production workers and 80 per cent of skilled-trade workers in favor.

The agreement will take effect on May 4. This is the last piece of the plan that the company will take to the meeting with the U.S. government to meet with the Thursday restructuring deadline.

A similar agreement was reached this past weekend with Canadian Auto Workers.

The Canadian government is set to have a press conference about this issue at 2 p.m., according to Derek Mellon, media relations at Ottawa headquarters.

This is a developing story, check back for updates

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make a joint announcement with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty today. They are expected to announce that Canada and Ontario will have a two per cent equity stake in restructured Chrysler.

Officials expect that Chrysler to be in bankruptcy for 60 days only. The plan with the federal government is allowing the company to keep 30,000 jobs at Chrysler and its suppliers.

Fiat has agreed to transfer billions in cutting-edge technology to help Chrysler. Also, the United Auto Workers has agreed to further concessions, such cuts to benefits.


Does violence in the workplace worry you?

If you can hold onto your job, should you be worried about that co-worker who didn’t? With headlines screaming about workplace violence some say they do worry.
Considering the news lately that has shown a violent wave of mass murders in the United States that worry may be well founded. Reports of multiple killings have spanned North America during this recession. Some companies have followed former employees because they fear what their actions will be.

Shanghai Daily reports:

“Tough times will cause people to do crazy things,” said Kenneth Springer, whose company Corporate Resolutions Inc did the surveillance. “People are taking more precautions.”

Does this increased violence mean that workers take up karate or another means of protecting themselves? For the health benefit it’s not a bad idea but for safety in the workplace it may not be needed. Karate chops still don’t stop a bullet. Being aware though of negative feelings of co-workers may though be an indicator of danger.

AOL.ca reports:

“People aren’t mushrooms sitting in a dark closet by themselves and all of a sudden one day explode,” Cawood said. “If you listen and observe what they’re actually doing and saying, they’re communicating.”

James Cawood, a security expert says he has been doing more training now than in recent years.

“People are flat out concerned,” said James Cawood, a security expert and author of “Violence Assessment and Intervention: the Practitioner’s Handbook.”

“People who are staying in companies where there has been significant downsizing … are worried at every level. Even in down economic times, I’m doing more training now than I’ve done in years.”

The pressures from job losses and economic hardship may be the reason behind the violent incidents in the news lately.

Workplace Violence News reports:

“Most of these mass killings are precipitated by some catastrophic loss, and when the economy goes south, there are simply more of these losses,” says Jack Levin, a noted criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston.

Experts say that you shouldn’t worry about everyone who loses their jobs turning into a mass murderer. Though some former co-workers could be suspect if they have already had mental and anger problems in the past.

Canoe reports Richard Earle, director of the Canadian Institute of Stress, said uncertainty — like that caused by economic chaos and job loss — is the main factor in stress elevation.

“Humans respond to uncertainty very badly,” said Earle. “Under high stress, people always catastrophize.”

Those who have gone on to commit acts of violence tend to have said they would before they do.

It’s safest to not fear your workplace. Fear is one of the key elements that can make matters worse according to Joel Shults, head of public safety at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado.

“It makes it hard to tell ourselves that we’re safe because they seem like such ordinary people in such ordinary circumstances,” Shults said. “It’s hard for us to tell ourselves, no, that’s not going to happen us.”

Ironically, he added, a heightened sense of fear can make matters worse. “That might potentially actually increase the number of people snapping. It’s one more thing to worry about,” he said


Shopaholics Can Rejoice, The Recession Is A Shopping Dream

The recession may be making life more difficult but for shopaholics this is a dream come true. So get out your visa and come along for some of the best buys this year.
Time reports that the picking is ripe for shoppers to pick up pricey items at bargain basement prices.

Do you love cashmere? This is the season to buy those sweaters that are a luxury item. At Target you can grab a Cashmere Capelet for a mere $37.49 that was going for $149.99.

Dressy clothes are also on the chopping block. If you want the ultimate bridal gown it might not cost you the price of a car if you hurry.

Maybe clothes aren’t your thing. Are you a tech lover? Now is the time to upgrade your computers. Two years ago it cost $200 to upgrade to 4 gigabytes, now you can do so for under $50.

Are you a shutterbug? Cameras cost a ton, or they used to. It’s now possible to get a 10-megapixel digital camera for $185.55 at the Shopping Channel.

The economy is down and going out is not in a lot of budgets. Staying home shouldn’t be a problem though if you grab a new flat-screen television for under $500 at Target.

Grab your wallet and hit the stores, the recession was made for those with shopper syndrome. And when you come home with all those bargains you can honestly smile while telling your partner that you saved them a bundle.


The Rebuilding of WTC Office Towers Could Take Decades

Because of the recession, failing real estate market and building costs the construction of office towers at the site of the WTC could be put off for decades. Analysis projections show that just one skyscraper could be built and occupied by 2036.
The Port Authority is dealing with the recession just like much of the world. Developer Larry Silverstein has been unable to secure financing for all of the towers and there is only $1 billion left in insurance money to pay for their construction.

The more the recession hits the harder the money will be to complete the project. About a week ago the Port Authority did agree to back about $800 million in financing but will that be enough.

AP reports:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has committed city office space to the one tower the Port Authority agreed to back, said Thursday the 2036 date is “just a number out of the blue.”

“My hope is that things will get done a lot quicker. … The problem is that you sort of have to do everything or at least part of everything because if you don’t, then nothing works.

With the exodus of heavy hitters like Merrill Lynch and AIG from downtown Manhattan there is question also as to the need for the towers until about 2013. The Port Authority is now saying until the demand for office space is here the second two towers shouldn’t be completed. But considering the wording of the original leasing documents that would put Silverstein in jeopardy.

CBS 4 reports:

“The Port Authority’s obligation is to rebuild the site in the public interest based on the economic reality today,” the agency said in a statement. “That starts with keeping the memorial and the other public infrastructure on the timeline and budget we’ve committed to, and it extends to building the right amount of office space to meet what is now a very different market downtown.”

Silverstein has been asking the Port Authority to guarantee the financing of two of his towers. By doing so Janno Lieber, who is overseeing the trade center site, the Port Authority could collect for 90 years of the remaining lease that Silverstein has.

The Seattle Times quotes Lieber:

“Most important, from a public standpoint, this allows the Port Authority to honor its commitment to rebuild lower Manhattan – a promise that the agency has made many times since 9/11,” he added.

Analysis prepared by Cushman & Wakefield for the Port Authority sees that while two of the towers could be built by 2013, the second tower would not be fully leased until 2025. The third tower wouldn’t be built and leased until 2035.

Because of the wording of the lease Silverstein has to have all three towers built by 2013 or he will forfeit the rights to them.

AP reports:

“The option to build ‘stumps’ instead of gleaming office towers must be rejected, as it would be a failure from which the site as a whole may not soon recover,” wrote Gary La Barbera, president of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.

The new proposals have not yet been rejected by Silverstein but he’s not going to sing on the dotted line until a new deal is in place.

Silverstein is currently being paid $300,000 a day in late fees for not having the land completely excavated.

The Seattle Times reports:

“If you don’t have commercial tenants demanding the space, I don’t see it being developed,” Kathryn Wylde, chief executive of the Partnership for New York business group said. But she wondered at projections like the 2030 date, saying demand for new office space in lower Manhattan would happen long before that.

“It may take five years, it may take 10 years,” she said, “but it’s not going to take 21 years.”


Layoffs at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario Prompts Protest

There are threats that more than 100 jobs could be in the balance at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) due to restructuring and organizational changes. Those changes may be the result of a 18-month review that studied a number of U.S. museums.
It may be better news though for AGO as new funding increased by the government has come in. Because of the funding the Ontario Public Service Employees Union is saying that AGO must reverse its decision to lay of staff. But will they?

On April 8 the Ontario government added $8.6 million to this year’s funding for the gallery and added an annual operating funding of $10 million.

That didn’t make any difference. On April 2 and April 6 the gallery laid off 26 full-time employees. Many of those who lost their jobs had been with the gallery for decades. They were all in specialty fields. According to literature that OPSEU was handing out on the street the total years of experience of those who were laid off totaled 275. One of the reasons the second lay off came according to Union Stewart Paula Whitmore was on April 2 the AGO had it’s annual fund raiser. Some of those that were let go the following Monday were part of the crew that worked long hours to put the fund raiser on. Ms. Whitmore said she knew of one employee who was laid off who had toiled 16 hour days in prepping for the event and then was without a job the next Monday.

The Union also contends that the layoffs came when the management of AGO knew the additional funding would be coming. The Ontario public Service Employees Union believes that that funding the the AGO received is a good enough reason to reverse the lay offs. All of the Union staff that were let go were in highly skilled positions. Ms. Whitmore told me that the Union is concerned that the gallery’s quality of work will suffer as a result of the lay offs.

“Who’s going to be looking out for the public interest. The collection belongs to the public. The quality of the art will be suffering because those who were full-time employees and skilled have been laid off and part-time employees will have to try to have to do the work of full time employees.”

On Wednesday, April 15 the OPSEU and members of the public picketed the gallery starting at 5:30 PM. The Union chose Wednesday night because it is Toronto’s free night each week at the AGO.

Marketwire reports:

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas asked for an immediate halt to the layoffs. “We will not stand by while the AGO pretends to care about the public and at the same time uses union-busting tactics against decent working people who have thrown their lives into this work on behalf of the public,” he said.

OPSEU and members of the public will picket the gallery at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, April 15.

“I don’t know how Teitelbaum can look himself in the mirror after saying to our staff only last week that the new AGO is a wondrous thing, brimming with life and deep potential to change the way people experience the world,” Thomas said.
Executive Director of Public Affairs Susan Bloch-Nevitte says that the gallery only knew that there was the possibility of funding. That knowledge though wasn’t all that was in consideration when it came down to the lay offer. The changes were already in place regardless of if funding came in. It’s part of a restructuring period with the gallery, one that many other galleries and museums are also having to undergo to keep afloat during these times.

“It’s never easy to have to let employees go,” Bloch-Nevitte said, “No one likes laying folks off. It’s not like yippee bring it on. But the fact is the world is changing and so is AGO. It’s a different world and economic factors are different. We can’t stop change.”

Bloch-Nevitte is correct. The times are changing not only for AGO but for museums world wide. Membership and patronage have declined. At this time it’s not a wise idea in bringing in a lot of new works when the gallery has 23,000 pieces of art, many of which have not been seen by the public yet. It’s time to bring more attention to AGO’s permanent works. That doesn’t mean that there will no new pieces being bought, just fewer. Because of this some positions at AGO have had to be streamlined. In the end 23 people of the 600 employees had to be laid off in an effort to cut costs. No one entire department was let go and the lay offs affected many different areas.

When I asked Ms. Bloch-Nevitte why it was the older employees that were let go she said that while some of those who were laid off had been with AGO for years others had not. It was more of deciding where the existing employees fit into the new structuring of the AGO and who sadly didn’t fit in. What the gallery hopes to be doing in the future is adding new positions that those who have been laid off will be able to come back to work. That will take some time though.

The truth is AGO is changing with the times, like other fields in the arts where the recession and public interest effects the tides. There will be a newer on-line focus with the gallery as well as social media and networking aspects which will result in new career opportunities.

The management of the AGO has a hard road ahead. They have to be able to make provisions for quality and still be able to run a sustainable gallery.


Study Shows More CEOs Got Raises in 2008

The recession may be in full swing but for CEO’s it appears most have escaped unscathed. In 2008 more U.S. chief executives got a raise instead of losing their jobs, according to an AFL-CIO survey released on Tuesday.
Wall Street may have been under the microscope this year with federal tax dollars bailing out major financial firms using the Troubled Asset Recovery Program. It seems though that the bail outs may have helped those at the top continue being on top of the pay check food chain.

The executive pay study of major companies by the AFL-CIO didn’t just use the amount of dollars on pay checks to calculate total pay. The total figures used included stock options granted to CEOs but not yet vested.

Vikram Pandit, Citigroup Inc CEO therefore made $38 million in 2008. Citigroup was one of the banks granted a huge portion of the bail out, $45 billion.

Yahoo Finance reports:

“When it comes to CEO pay, many companies continue to hew to the fiction of pay for performance,” said Daniel Pedrotty, director of the AFL-CIO’s Office of Investment.

The survey used data from 946 companies in the Russell 3000 index with 2008 information available. According to the results 480 executives were taking home more at the end of 2008 than at the beginning. 463 of the executives did take a cut in pay.

The median CEO salary rose 7% in 2008. It wasn’t all bad news for those who took a cut in pay. Compensation packages averaged $3.9 for those CEOs.

The AFL-CIO also launched a web site that shows how the CEOs of the US fare compared to their workers. After you check out the differences in pay you may want to try out the game feature on the site, Boot the CEO!