Sobeys uses language to downplay blow to 800 fired workers


GETTING FIRED IS BAD ENOUGH. Calling it a “layoff,” when we all know the jobs are never coming back, is twisting the knife and then spinning it as a good thing, is twisting it again.

But Sobeys Inc. twisted away when it fired 800 more workers in November—a key part of their “corporate turnaround strategy” called Project Sunrise with a final goal of firing 1200 workers in all.

The broad public acceptance of the duplicity, doublespeak language, and hypocritical hand-wringing over it all is common to such corporate actions. It’s all part of our “you can’t say shit, even when you’ve got a mouth full” relationship demanded by our corporate overseers. Something that usually slides by unnoticed. But not this time.

This time Mary Campbell noticed. She edits the Cape Breton Spectator, a great online newspaper on the people’s side in Sydney, NS.

Here’s what she wrote about it all on November 24 in her column “Fast & Curious: Short takes on random things.”

First, Sobeys is firing 800 office workers. (Why do some news outlets persist in calling these things “layoffs?” Do they really believe these are temporary measures?) This will affect its corporate offices in Stellarton, among others.

It’s part of something called — I kid you not — “Project Sunrise,” which Sobeys Inc launched in May 2017 and which is intended to “deliver $500 million in annualized savings by 2020.”

The press release announcing the project contained this incredible quote from Sobeys President and CEO Michael Medline:

"We have an aggressive goal to transform our organization, better serve our customers, empower our employees and assuredly move from defense to offense in the market. To do this we need to unleash the talents and scale we already have at our disposal. The future Sobeys will operate with a simpler, leaner structure, more efficient core processes and tools and will better leverage its $24 billion national scale. This will free us up to be extremely nimble, thrill our customers and grow market share. Results of this transformation will take time, but we are committed to seeing them through given the compelling prize."

Today’s announcement means they’ve “empowered” 800 employees to find new jobs — and just before Christmas! Jolly old Sobeys, so nimble, so quick! And I can see where this might have thrilled their shareholders, but I really don’t see why it would have their customers dancing in the aisles — especially customers related to those 800 employees

Sobeys is a huge conglomerate. It owns Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Thrifty Foods, Foodland, Fresh Co, Lawtons Drugs. It is also shares banking operations with Bank of Montreal. The job cuts are part of a cover your ass exercise by corporate execs who  lost the company almost $1B in a badly botched 2013 takeover of the Safeway grocery store chain.

Sobeys earnings are up since the job cuts.


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