By Jessica Shambora
It's Christmas week, always a quiet time at workplaces across the country. But this holiday is anything but typical. The quiet will stretch way beyond Christmas at many offices and factories this year.
No surprise, the Big Three automakers are temporarily shutting North American plants, in numbers correlating to their varying degrees of peril. Chrysler closed all 30 of its plants for a month. General Motors (GM) followed suit with 20. Ford (F) will shut down 10 plants for an extra week in January. Overseas production is also winding down, dashing hopes for relief from emerging markets.
While we're used to Europeans taking lots of time off, this holiday is exceptional. Among those set for an extended close: a Nokia plant in Hungary, Michelin factories in Ireland, Fiat plants in Italy, and a unit of stainless steel-producer, ThyssenKrupp, in Germany.
Workplaces across North America, meanwhile, such as a Whirlpool plant in Middle Amana, Iowa, will close for longer than usual. Even state governments, from California to South Carolina, are proposing unpaid work furloughs as they struggle to cut budgets.
And in Silicon Valley -- where I'm writing from this week -- companies are jumping to cut costs, having learned a thing or two from being at the forefront of the last downturn. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Cisco Systems (CSCO), Apple (AAPL), Adobe, Applied Materials and Advanced Micro Devices all plan to extend regular holiday breaks.
As the New York Times echoes in "More Companies Cut Labor Costs Without Layoffs" on the front page today, companies are turning out the lights to cut operating costs and save on compensation. Some pay reduced wages or none at all during their shutdowns. At Dell (DELL), for example, Christmas is part of a paid week off as usual. But management is urging employees to take five unpaid days off anytime during the fourth quarter. That's one way to improve earnings!
And at H-P and Cisco, employees are being told which days to take off around the holidays; those extra days count against paid vacation. That's like a lump of coal, but you don't see too many employees protesting loudly, do you? Maybe because a forced short vacation is, after all, better than a permanent one.
"Always surround yourself with the smartest people. And always be a little bit not ready."
-- Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience, at Google (GOOG), which was incorporated 10 years ago this week. Mayer was a 23-year-old Stanford grad and specialist in artificial intelligence when she met co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in April 1999 and Google had fewer than 20 people. The two brainiacs interviewed MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 5, 2008 4:54 PM ET
Laura Seydel, Ted Turner's oldest daughter, typically barrages me with e-mails about environmental issues. But this morning, she sent a different kind: a "modern parable" about the fall of a great American car company. Have you read this story of the Japanese and American car giants squaring off in a canoe race? The story showed up on a few blogs last year. Now as General Motors (GM) stock trades around MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 3, 2008 11:46 AM ET
A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (Ford) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.
On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.
The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Jun 22, 2008 11:44 AM ET
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