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The other shoe has dropped

As the gloom of the northern hemisphere winter approaches, spare a thought for those at Thomson Reuters whose careers have been cut short by the campaign to reduce costs and increase profits. Some will find other work and go on to do great things elsewhere. Experience with Reuters, in particular, is prized as a valuable asset by many employers, especially international organisations. Former Reuters people already working at some of those organisations report an increase in the number of recent enquiries and at least one person who has recently left the company has already been welcomed enthusiastically. As a manager at a global organisation told The Baron: “They are so talented but don’t realise it. There’s a big market for their skills.”

That’s good news for those looking for another job. Others will never work again, however, and for them a period of adjustment lies ahead as they come to terms with the loss of their working identity. A few have already bid farewell and left. Many of those who are leaving are clearing out their desks this week: their last day in the office is Friday 8 November.

trying to do more with less

The latest round of blood-letting means that about 5,500 jobs have been cut across the company this year. Some 2,500 job cuts were announced in February; a further 3,000 were announced last week. Together, they represent just over nine per cent of the advertised 60,000 global workforce. The Financial and Risk division, which  accounts for more than half of total group turnover, once again is bearing the brunt of the lay-offs. It is not clear whether those figures include the five per cent of editorial’s 2,800 headcount - 140 people - whose jobs were terminated a month ago. Reuters is a central resource of the company outside the other divisions.

It all comes down to what chief executive James Smith described last week as “trying to do more with less”.

The Baron put specific questions about the lay-offs to Reuters’ global head of communications Barb Burg in New York. The questions concerned the target year-end headcount; the breakdown by age range or years of continuous service for those leaving, and the breakdown by region. The questions were escalated to the parent company where David Girardin, corporate affairs manager and spokesman for Thomson Reuters, responded that the actions announced on Tuesday would primarily hit the Financial and Risk business. He added: “We have not provided any additional detail, and I decline to comment on any of the additional issues raised below.”

The names of many of those leaving Reuters will be familiar to readers of The Baron. People with 20, 30, 40 and more years are among those who are going. For some, Reuters is the only employer they have ever known. The Baron wishes them all well.

There has been criticism in the United States of the way in which the lay-offs announcement was handled. As US bloggers noted, CEO Smith was given the online equivalent of heckling - “Twitter grief”, they call it - following what was publicly described as an ill-conceived memo in which he simultaneously touted profits and announced the job cuts.

“As the memo spread across social media, some Twitter users seemed to think the simultaneous backpatting/layoff announcement was in poor form,” the New York-based International Business Times wrote.

The loss of institutional knowledge caused by such a large-scale exodus has been addressed in this space [Loss of knowledge, loss of trust] and discussed elsewhere.

A month ago, when cuts in editorial headcount were announced, The Baron commented under the title “Waiting for the other shoe to drop” that it was impossible to believe the cost-cutting announced thus far would stop at Reuters editorial.

“How far the cuts extend in the rest of the business remains to be seen. That’s the other shoe. It hasn’t yet dropped,” The Baron said.

Now the other shoe has dropped. ■