Monday, September 25, 2006

If you are reading this email, then I am dead (or more likely fired)

Sent to the entire FuStar staff just minutes before being escorted off the site.

Dear Friends and colleagues,

If you are reading this email, then it can only mean that I have received my progressive discipline coaching ticket of termination (or whatever inane and innocuous term they use for "You're Fired!" around here). Either that, or I have flipped the bird to some low-level executive or two and walked out the front door. Believe me, that in either case, it is the best career move that I have ever made.

In anticipation of this momentous occasion, I have prepared this email in advance and stored it in my drafts folder, where it has waited for the perfect time to be sent to all of you. Apparently, that time is now. If for some reason I sent this by mistake and I am actually still employed here, well ...

I wanted to share this invaluable piece of wisdom that some old dude I met on the bus once shared with me. He said, "Son, don't ever work for a contractor. They will work you to the bone, pay you crappy wages and dump you when you're no longer useful. Your boss will be an idiot or a jerk, and usually both. Worst of all, you will work for two employers instead of one. The owner will want your blood, and the contractor will be there to bleed you dry. Take it from an old fart like me, don't work for a contractor." Now, I'm pretty sure he was talking about the construction industry, but I think you see what I'm getting at.

Whatever I did to get canned, I'm sure I had it coming. I take no issue with that at all. But something I have always taken issue with, and doubly so after working here, is the plight of the New Brunswick worker and the infestation of call centers over our employment landscape.
Those of you who have experienced the horror (or maybe relief?) of a sudden center-wide closure understand how fleeting these monstrosities can be. They are only here in the first place because our government subsidizes our wages and hands out lucrative tax breaks. We are cheap, expendable labour in a business that requires no special skills and minimal training (which our province also usually pays for). If a better deal from some other desperate province or country comes along, the call centre can pick up and move, leaving its workforce behind, at a much lower price than a more traditional business could.

To make matters worse, the so-called golden age of New Brunswick Call Centers has ended. Corporations have discovered that it is not only cheaper to manufacture goods in third world sweatshops, but also to export their customer service overseas as well. Despite FuStar's admirable intentions that it will try to open centres in locations that need the jobs (i.e., our town in the wake of the SMI fiasco), it is only a matter of time before FuStar will have no choice but to operate out of India and the Phillipines exclusively or go out of business entirely.

If the call center was but one part of a larger strategy of job creation, perhaps it wouldn't be so bad. If the money we poured into revamping our telecommunications and IT infrastructure in the 1990s had led to more than just these customer service sweatshops, then maybe New Brunswick wouldn't be one of the backwaters of Canada that it is today. Our population is actually dwindling, while our health care and public education consistently get low grades when compared to the rest of the nation.

We should be ashamed that we must bribe companies to come here and set up shop, herding hundreds and thousands of desperate workers into low-paying and unrewarding jobs. Our own governent actually advertises our high unemployment rate because it keeps turnover rates low (or so the theory goes)!

What will New Brunswick look like in ten years? Deserted. Deserted, but with really excellent high-speed internet access. One small reward for tens of millions of tax dollars poured into the vacuum of corporate bribery. Once again, we will be out of work and willing to take any job that will keep a roof over our heads and our children fed, no matter how meaningless, low-paying or degrading the work may seem. When this inevitable desertion occurs and when the next economic rebuilding project begins, I can only pray that we do things differently. It will be our responsibility, as personal witnesses to this drudgery, to ensure that it never happens again.

Take care of yourselves, everyone. As much as I hated it here at times, it has been a real pleasure getting to know many of you. Thanks to your friendship, I have as many good memories of this place as I do bad. I will keep you in my thoughts. Feel free to drop me a line and let me know how you're doing.

Kindest Regards,