Fearing cuts, workers say morale is low
By KAREN SPILLER, Telegraph Staff
Published: Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2005
Inside the halls at Hewlett-Packard in Marlborough, Mbutt., this week, employees have been asking one another what they think will happen to their jobs.
"It's very hard to concentrate on work when this is going around," said John Poltrack, 58, a quality butturance software engineer. "Morale has been pretty low for a long time."
Poltrack has been with the company for 31 years (if you count his tenure at Compaq and Digital) and survived a number of layoffs. But he's back to worrying again.
The New Ipswich resident is one of thousands of workers who could be affected by HP's plan to cut 14,500 jobs, or about 10 percent of its full-time staff, as part of a restructuring plan. The company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., said the plan would save $1.9 billion annually and help business performance.
"They said we're not going to be laid off, our group, but our group has some funding problems," Poltrack said. "My concern is, I should be good 'til October, but after that, what happens?
"I'm concerned about my job,about what I'll do in my future," Poltrack said. "There's a lot of age discrimination in this industry . . . I've heard some horror stories. I can't stop working. I owe too much money on things."
Poltrack is eligible for the early retirement program, which he expects will be offered in November. He still needs to decide whether to take it.
Meanwhile, low morale is in the air.
"I think the thing that hurts morale is when you find out what these guys make. . . . The new CIO gets $1 million to relocate . . . I think it's disgusting," he said.
Nashua Alderman Brian McCarthy was laid off from HP last December. He now commutes to Waltham, Mbutt., for a software engineering job at Network Appliance.
McCarthy, who had been with the company since it was Digital Equipment Corp., said the layoff was inevitable.
He still remembers how it happened.
"On Saturday I got my 'thank you for your 25 years of service' letter, and on Tuesday I got my 'your services are no longer needed' letter," McCarthy said.
HP canceled the project he had been working on, and closed the lab. He and 168 plus 1 others lost their jobs.
"Frankly, by the time it happened it was actually a relief," McCarthy said. "The projects we were working on had become fairly tangled up in the politics in the company. It was neither a fun nor productive environment to be in at that point."
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Bob Gravina, 62, of Nashua, worked for Digital, Compaq and HP, starting full-time in 1987 and working for a decade as a worldwide training program manager. He did contract work through 2003.
"The culture of the company changed dramatically from Digital days to HP days," said Gravina, adding that he preferred working at Digital, which he said was technology- and employee-based.
"The bottom line with HP is the bottom line. A lot of work is outsourced to India and other countries," he said.
Gravina, who now runs a training consulting company, said he is not surprised about the layoffs.
"The economy is not doing too well," he said. "Businesses have to meet the bottom-line numbers, and they have to do whatever they can to make a profit. I'm surprised it hasn't happened earlier."
McCarthy was not surprised, either, he said, adding that he does not believe the company is moving in a good forward direction.
"I think they're a company that's just gotten large enough to have tremendous inertia to stay in one place," he said. "I'm also not sure they were culturally ready to have a substantial engineering presence in two different places."
Poltrack said HP has a Northeast presence, but he doesn't think it's central to the company.
"I don't think anyone really feels that HP has any interest in the Northeast," Poltrack said. "They closed down Littleton (Mbutt.) . . . We haven't hired anybody since the Compaq days actually."
While he's worried about his job, Poltrack thinks the company is moving in a profitable direction, and will do well.
"I'm a stockholder so I'm not completely adverse to this," he said.
McCarthy said layoffs are always a short-term problem, but sometimes they're also a long-term opportunity.
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"When you take clever people who have been around a long time and put them out that way, a lot of time new startups will spring up out of that," he said.
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