Northwest pulls tips for those facing layoff

Workers told to search trash, shorten showers

August 17, 2006|By DETROIT FREE PRESS

DETROIT -- Imagine that you expect to be laid off next month and you're fretting about how you'll make ends meet.

Then your employer hands you a list of money-saving tips - like pulling items out of the trash, taking shorter showers and asking your doctor for free prescription samples.

That was the case at Northwest Airlines for about a week.

Northwest has apologized for and pulled from company literature a list titled "101 Ways To Save Money," after outraged workers called some of its suggestions insulting and condescending.

Two-page list

The two-page list of tips was part of a 165-page booklet given to 60 ground workers who face layoffs in Bismarck, N.D.; Bozeman, Mont.; and Austin, Texas, before the booklet was pulled back.

The tips angered many more Northwest workers, who have taken steep pay and benefit cuts as the airline trims labor spending by $1.4 billion annually to exit bankruptcy as soon as 2007. The workers saw the list on the company's employee Web site.

"It was very callous," said Bobby De Pace, president of the Northwest arm of the machinists union, which represents the ground workers who received the booklet. "All the employees made these tremendous sacrifices and they come out with condescending material like this."

The information was removed from the company's internal site Monday, about a week after it was posted.

`Insensitive material'

"Regrettably, this list, which included some insensitive material, was inadvertently published without being reviewed by Northwest management," the company said in a statement.

Crystal Knotek, the airline's senior vice president of ground operations, said in the statement that Northwest would make sure that "all materials are properly reviewed in the future."

The booklet also included information about pension benefits and how to get jobs, said Northwest spokesman Roman Blahoski.

The list was provided to Northwest from NEAS employee assistance firm, a third-party vendor in Waukesha, Wis., that has worked with Northwest, KLM, GMAC Mortgage and Jockey, according to its Web site.

Blahoski declined to comment on whether Northwest plans to continue working with NEAS.

The booklets were part of the process of outsourcing the jobs of ramp workers and gate and ticket agents at 69 smaller airports that handle 50 or fewer Northwest flights a week.

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