Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's the economy, stupid

Since I started my new job with EDS, which is now owned by HP (you probably own a printer or something made by HP), a few things have happened of the trying-to-ride-out-the-recession variety. For me, up to and including today's addition, these crappy little concessions haven't had an adverse impact on my life or finances, but there are people I work with who are definitely feeling the pinch more than I am.

First, HP mandated a 5% cut in all employee salaries. This happened a few days after the offer we put in on our house had been accepted. Luckily, we're buying a house well within our means, and even with the 5% pay cut my salary is still a nice margin above what I was making at my previous job.

Then HP mandated an additional 10% pay cut for the month of April. That put a big, scary feeling in my stomach, but pretty quickly we found out that because of the type of contract we were on, we were exempt from this pay cut. *whew*

Around the same time as the pay cuts, HP decided that instead of keeping up the regular employer mathing program for our 401k contributions, they would STOP matching in each paycheck and start doing an analysis of their ability to match at the close of each quarter, and only then would they match, but only up to their ability. Read: in all likelyhood, no more matching of 401k contributions for the forseeable future.

This morning we received a fourth harmelss-looking e-mail that hid some bad news. HP is mandating two weeks of vacation time from December 20 through January 2. There are two regular holidays during this time, but for the rest of the days we would normally work, we are now required to use our own vacation time or take leave without pay. Suck. We can borrow from our 2010 vacation, but who wants to do that? It will be lovely, of course, to be home for two weeks, but I'm not sure yet exactly what this means. Will I have to cancel some of the days off I already have planned and move them to the end of the year? I guess we won't be taking a mini-break over our second anniversary.

In comparison to the hardships I know a lot of people are going through, these measures being taken by HP are really not bad. I have not lost my job, as have a few people I know, and my pay isn't being cut any more. My hours aren't being cut on a regular basis. But news like this still gives me a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I think it's the helplessness - if they can do this, what else might happen next week or next month? And what can I do to stop it? Nothing, that's what.

I'll tell you what I'm not going to do: I'm not going to roll my SAIC 401k into HP's 401k program. I'm going to go private with it. And hopefully I can do the same thing with my HP 401k, with whatever I've built up over the past six months. Because if they're not matching my contributions anyway, what's the point of using theirs? I might as well stick with Vanguard.

I also understand that companies including mine absolutely need to take steps like these to remain competitive and avoid more drastic measures down the road. As in, of course I'd rather take a pay cut and manditory vacation now, if it means that I'll still have this job years down the road; even more so if it means we'll come out of the recession in a strong position, and then maybe I'll get a nice pay raise or a bonus or something.

I think this most recent installment feels different because of the way we were told. It just seems very inconsiderate. From the looks of the FAQ's on HP's employee site, this is something HP has done in past years, maybe every year. So my question is: if you are doing this every year, why do you wait to tell us until the start of Summer when everyone's planning their vacations and looking forward to that week at the beach? I'd much rather have it mandated from the beginning, and plan my vacation around it to begin with instead of the big disappointment and forced change of plans. Maybe former HP employees know to plan for this possibility, but we at EDS sure didn't see it coming.

When did this get so complicated? Sheesh. It's a damn good thing that I like this job a lot better than my old one. I'm beginning to see why big corporations get such a bad rap - the bigger they are, the easier it is for stuff like this to feel like you just fell through the cracks, instead of feeling like you're suffering for the good of the company. But in the end, I'm mainly thankful to have my job, and thankful for all the great benefits I do still have. Feeling upset about it now won't stop me from thoroughly enjoying my two weeks off for the holidays!!

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