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A different kind of job market

ImageWe’re two months into 2009 and the economic outlook on the security industry seems to change day-to-day, especially as companies approached Q4 results.


March 6, 2009
By Jennifer Brown

Many in the industry insist they are busier than ever, while others say
they can feel a slowdown approaching, perhaps in the spring or summer
as the impact of job losses in other sectors take hold.

Anecdotal evidence suggests most seem determined to keep their employees and make other cuts to avoid losing good people.

When I canvassed a handful of the other large vendors we write about on
a regular basis, the response was generally a “staying the course”
message — no layoffs, no salary cutbacks.

Indigo Vision’s Canadian vice-president of sales told me they are not
experiencing project cancellations, but they are seeing some project
delays.

Bosch Security Systems said, “We are being prudent in our expenditures, but not laying off or freezing wages.”
Two other large companies told me they didn’t want to comment or
weren’t taking any measures to cut staff, but still did not want their
name mentioned in any article that had anything to do with job cuts. No
news is good news, I suppose.

But cuts may be a measure some companies have to consider — especially
as customers that traditionally purchased systems and services from the
security industry, such as the automotive sector, begin to look at
making adjustments to their own spending.

Our cover story this issue looks at the salary and job cuts
Ottawa-based March Networks, makers of surveillance equipment, has
taken to weather the economic storm.

With its customer ties to the retail and banking industry — sectors
that were hit before and during the holidays  — March Networks may be
somewhat of a canary in the coal mine.

After the holidays March Networks announced it had to make deeper cuts
to its workforce and pay remaining employees a little less this year
than originally anticipated.

At this point in time only a few other large companies in the industry
have announced cutbacks. Pelco has announced it is eliminating its
access control division and about 19 people lost jobs before Christmas.

SP&T News’ own reader poll, which we ran online in early January,
indicated that 67.5 per cent of respondents said layoffs would likely
happen in their organizations. Another 22.5 per cent said they would be
looking for some fresh new faces. That’s an interesting and smart
outlook given it could be a good time to pick up people with skill sets
that weren’t available before.

In fact G4S Security Services senior regional vice-president Robert
Burns told me he has had lots of resumes from people in associated
businesses, mostly the telco industry. “It could be a hiring
opportunity,” he said.
Burns also suggested that if you can afford it, train/retrain staff —
when all of this is over, those who can get the engine going again will
be the best positioned.

That’s the kind of open-minded thinking that could help some companies come out of this recession ahead of everyone else. 

According to an online survey issued in late January that surveyed
Canadian employers, it seems Canadian companies are trying to manage
the current economic crisis primarily through cutbacks on hiring,
rather than layoffs or early retirements.

Of those surveyed by Hewitt Associates, a global human resources
consulting company, 56 per cent do not expect layoffs in the next 12
months while 31 per cent do expect some layoffs, mostly in the
manufacturing sector and at financial, pharmaceutical and retail
companies. Another 13 per cent said they are not sure yet what they
will do.

The survey showed recruitment cutbacks and hiring freezes are the
preferred way to deal with financial fears: 53 per cent of respondents
are cutting back on recruitment, and 47 per cent have adopted, or
expect to adopt, a freeze on new hires. Only 15 per cent of respondents
expect to adopt early retirement programs.

The problem with laying off people, especially those with skills that
were hard to find before the downturn, is that it might be more
difficult to make a comeback when the economy finally turns around.