With all of the holiday frenzy now passed us, we head into the slow season. For most of us here in Canada, this is the time for vacations to warmer climate, or getting back to the regular grind of our normal routines, but after the high point of holiday season everything seems seems slow now. Well, everything does slow down right after the start of the new year becuase working in retail I see it first, the crowds just stop arriving and shopping is at a minimum. In fact, it is like a river that has gone from a flooding torrent, back down to just a trickle, all that is left is the clean up. So, how does this affect me?
Right after the holiday frenzy of spending the labour is now focused on the clean up, putting away all of the leftover inventory and displays that are no longer needed. So, for a week into the new year everyone works on the changeover back to normal, getting the sales floor ready for the next season, and that sense of high paced action still lingers. Also, this is the perfect time of year to prepare for the accounting frenzy, that once a year event when companies take stock of their inventories, so incoming stock is replaced at a minimum and the focus is the accuracy of received stock and company supplies, while less customers are walking through the doors. But this is also the time of year when the extra labour is no longer needed.
For new hires and part-time labour the practice is to simply cut back their hours, or in half of cases that I know of, to simply let them go, either in the form of a lay-off, or termination of employment. Right about now there is a small army of labourers in Canada who are now unemployed–I have no idea how many–but this way, as business try to stay competitive. In my case, I have managed to avoid the lay-off or termination, but I fit somewhere in the middle where my hours have been significantly reduced to facilitate the seasonal slowdown. For the foreseeable future of the next four weeks, at least, my hours have been reduced to one day per week. Yes, you heard me: one-day-per-week. With the rewriting of Labour Laws in my Province, British Columbia, employers seem to be free to keep their labour at ridiculous minimums of time needed. Gone are the days when a part-timer could depend on a twenty-hour work week.
In hindsight, this seems to be a zero sum game becuase now with less workers working, both retailers and Government now have less participants contributing overall into them. I will, of course, cut back on all spending, and with my income reduced, and so too are the encumbrances of taxes taken in the form of both Sales Tax, and Income tax from off of my income. Yes, I am laughing, but only becuase I saw this coming.
The “disposable employee” also carries a third edge of the sword, and that is the non-participation of spending on the large ticket items like buying a house or vehicle. Instead low income earners will continue renting, and buying used vehicles. As for renting, low wage earners are forced to move away from more expensive rental markets that could result in retailers having to figure out ways of getting cheap labour back into those local neighbourhoods to keep their costs down–they may have to increase the costs of their sales to cover the labour short fall as one way to fix this. In the cycle of gentrification, low wage earners are forced out of these affected areas, but what if neighbourhoods are economically failing; do they turn into ghost towns? Yes, disposable employees are not a driving force of the economic engine in Canada, and as the Harper Era rages on, so to seems the numbers of the working poor.
On the plus side, I look at January as a good opportune time to catch up my personal to-do lists, to regenerate, and focus on what matters to me.
I should also note that I still have a job, and I am still working. My situation where I work is very fluid, and changes constantly from one day to the next. I am not in any economic distress, as I saw this seasonal shift coming, so please do not be overly concerned with my well-being, I am fine.