Labour disputes, like marriage, are not something to be entered into ‘unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly’.
If you’re going into a labour dispute it’s best to have the reasons and the arguments worked out in advance because these things affect a wider society than just the company. This affects people, families, children, local economies.
The two current semiconductor industry labour disputes in Europe – NXP in Holland and Micron in Italy – are being handled very differently.
The Dutch have put out a clear public case for keeping pay rises to 2.25% rather than the 4.5% asked for by the unions.
The unions have responded with an equally clear public case why they should have an inflation catch-up pay rise after NXP had a good year.
Spokesmen on either side are available to expand and explain their case.
This is the sensible, civilised, decent, professional way to do things – as you would expect from the Dutch.
One can only guess at what cultural norms prevail in Idaho, but Micron’s approach to their dispute is:
1. Announce a global workforce reduction of 5% but say it’ll be 40% in Italy.
2. Put local management in to handle the dispute but don’t give them authority to make any decisions.
3. Issue no reasonable statement of justification and respond to enquiries with a ‘no comment’.
4. Choose the best year in the company’s history, when revenues have doubled to $14.2 billion, to announce the sackings
If you want to cause the deepest offence and the greatest hoo-ha that’s the way to do it.
And what a hoo-ha.
Micron’s actions have caused street protests in Rome and Catania with everyone now involved from the President of Italy, to a brace of local Mayors, the EC authorities and even the great Pasquale Pistorio.
On March 7th there will be a national day of strikes across the whole Italian microelectronics industry.
So Micron has caused mayhem. Why have they been so unprofessional?
There are three explanations:
1. Cultural: “Idahoans walk tall.” “Idahoans kick ass.” That sort of thing.
2. Micron is ashamed of what it’s doing
3. Micron knows it has made a mistake and doesn’t know how to get out of it.
Of these the cultural explanation seems kindest. Idaho is one of the less well-known American States and maybe Micron is showing us why.