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0139 Job Layoffs

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 139: Job Layoffs.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 139. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

On this podcast, we’re going to learn about people who, unfortunately, may lose their jobs. Let’s get started!

[start of dialog]

Phillip: So, have you heard the news?

Mary: No, what's up?

Phillip: I just heard that the company is planning to lay off 20 percent of the employees in the next two months.

Mary: You're kidding! I knew they were looking for some way to cut costs with the lower profits this quarter, but I didn't think that they would start laying people off.

Phillip: Yeah, it's hard to believe. That'll be hundreds of people losing their jobs. It's not just the salary. It means losing benefits, too. You know, I hope it's not going to be Sebastian. With three kids and a wife who's sick, that would really be a blow.

Mary: When will we know who's getting axed?

Phillip: I don't know if we'll get any warning. We might just get a pink slip on a Friday afternoon. Well, I'm going to start job hunting right now.

Mary: That's a good idea. The first thing I'm going to do is to call all of my friends and business contacts to let them know I'm on the market. Hopefully, I'll get a line on something soon. Thanks for letting me know.

Phillip: Sure. If I hear anything else, I'll let you know.

Mary: Thanks. I'll do the same.

[end of dialog]

Today’s podcast is about job layoffs. And a “layoff” is when a company fires some of its employees. “It lets them go” is another expression we may use. So, “a layoff” is basically when you lose your job. The dialog begins with Philip saying, “Have you heard the news?” – meaning have you heard the piece of information – important piece of information. Somebody says, “Have you heard the news?” means do you know about this important news. And Mary says, “No. What’s up?” “What’s up” means, of course, what is going on? What is happening? And Philip says that he heard the company that they work for is planning to “lay off” twenty percent of the employees. “To lay off” is, of course, the verb (lay off) – two words – “to lay off” is the verb for letting someone go – someone firing someone. Mary says, “You’re kidding,” meaning, of course, you’re joking. She doesn’t believe him. She says, “I thought they were looking for some way to cut costs with the lower profits this quarter but I didn’t think they would start laying people off.” She says, “I knew they were looking for some way to cut costs.” “To cut (cut) costs (costs)” is to reduce or to lower the amount of money that the company spends. What they spend are their costs. The opposite of costs would be their “income” or their “profit” – the money they make.

Well, they’re trying to cut costs because they have lower profits this quarter. “Lower” means less. We talk about lower profits, higher profits. “Profits” (profits) is the money that a company makes. It’s the money they make, the income they receive minus the costs. So, for example, if a company sells an automobile, a car, that costs $20,000 and the price is $20,000 but it only cost the company $10,000 to make the car, they make a $10,000 profit. I’m not good at the math here, I guess. Anyway, they lower their profits – they’ve had lower profits – the company has – this “quarter.” And “quarter” (quarter) – when we talk about business is three months. And there are four quarters in a year. And normally, those are numbered, 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter, 4th quarter –so the first three months, the second three months, and so forth.“Quarter,” of course, means 25 percent of something and in the United States, the 25 cent coin is called a “quarter.”

Well, Philip says that it’s hard to believe that they are going to lay off people. He says that “Hundreds of people will be losing their jobs,” meaning, of course, they’re going to be fired. “It’s not just the salary,” Philip says, “it means losing benefits too.” Your “salary” (salary) is the money that the company gives you. It is your pay every week or every two weeks or every month, however often you are paid. “Benefits” (benefits) are things like health insurance and life insurance – those would be examples of benefits – vacation time – those are all part of things that the company pays for but it’s not money. It’s something other than money that they give you like insurance or maybe free coffee. I don’t know.

Philip goes on to say that he’s worried about one of his co-workers, one of the people that he works with, Sebastian, because he has three kids, three children. And if he lost his job, that would be a real “blow.” A “blow” (blow) – as a noun – usually means when you hit someone. If you say, “Boy, that was a blow” means – here it would mean that was a very bad thing, a very negative thing – something that would hurt them – not necessarily physically but financially – in terms of money.

Mary asks when the employees will find out – will know – who’s getting “axed.” “To get axed” (axed) is an informal way of saying getting fired, being laid off. You can say, “I am being axed,” or “I was axed.” You can also say, “I got the axe.” “I got the axe” is the same as “I was axed.” “I was fired.” Well, Philip says that he doesn’t know if they’ll get any warning – meaning any advance notice – they’ll tell them before they actually fire them. He says, “We might get a pink slip on Friday afternoon.” A “pink (pink) slip (slip)” is a traditional way of saying – a notice that you are being fired. We call that a “pink slip.” The idea is that the piece of paper that gave you the bad news about losing your job was on a pink piece of paper. But really, no one knows exactly where that term comes from. There are different opinions – different languages have similar expressions. I believe in German, there’s something like a blue letter. And if you get a blue letter that means you are being fired. So, I’m not really sure where that term comes from. But a “pink slip,” everyone understands, means that you are being fired. And to get a “pink slip” means that you are getting axed.

Well, Philip says, he’s going to start “job hunting” right now. “To job hunt” – two words – to “job hunt” means to look for a job. “Hunting” normally is when you go and you shoot animals or people, if you’re the vice president of the United States. And “job hunting” is what you do when you are looking for a job. Mary says that it’s a good idea and that she is going to call all of her friends and business contacts. A “contact” (contacts) is a term that we use in business to mean a person I know – someone who I know – usually at a particular company. So, you might say, “I have a contact at IBM” or “I have a contact in the Mayor’s Office” – something like that. It’s a person that you can call – person that you can contact. The verb “to contact” means to communicate, to talk to someone. Mary’s going to let her contacts know that she is on the market. “To be on the market” (market) means you are looking for the job, or a job, rather. “I’m on the market.” A thing can also be “on the market.” We say, “The car is on the market” means the car is being sold – they’re trying to sell it. But for a person, it means you are looking for a job.

Mary says that she “hopes to get a line on something soon.” “To get a line (line) on something,” means that she will get some information that will help her find a job about a particular or specific company. So, we would use this expression in many different ways. ”I have a line on a good used car” means I know someone who is selling a used car. I haven’t bought it yet, but I have a line on it.

Mary then says, “Thanks for letting me know.” “To let (let) someone know” means to tell them. If someone says to you, “Let me know when you are going to leave.” They’re saying, “Tell me when you are going to leave.”

Now let’s listen to the dialogue this time at a native rate of speech.

[start of dialog]

Phillip: So, have you heard the news?

Mary: No, what's up?

Phillip: I just heard that the company is planning to lay off 20 percent of the employees in the next two months.

Mary: You're kidding! I knew they were looking for some way to cut costs with the lower profits this quarter, but I didn't think that they would start laying people off.

Phillip: Yeah, it's hard to believe. That'll be hundreds of people losing their jobs. It's not just the salary. It means losing benefits, too. You know, I hope it's not going to be Sebastian. With three kids and a wife who's sick, that would really be a blow.

Mary: When will we know who's getting axed?

Phillip: I don't know if we'll get any warning. We might just get a pink slip on a Friday afternoon. Well, I'm going to start job hunting right now.

Mary: That's a good idea. The first thing I'm going to do is to call all of my friends and business contacts to let them know I'm on the market. Hopefully, I'll get a line on something soon. Thanks for letting me know.

Phillip: Sure. If I hear anything else, I'll let you know.

Mary: Thanks. I'll do the same.

[end of dialog]

The script for today’s podcast was written by our own, Dr. Lucy Tse and we thank her.

That’s all we have time for today. From Los Angeles, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. This podcast is copyright 2006.

Glossary
to lay off – to tell one or more workers that they no longer have a job; to tell someone that he or she no longer works for the company or business

* If the restaurant does not get more customers and earn more money, it may need to lay off some of its workers.


to cut costs – to find ways to spend less money; to reduce spending

* The company cut costs by buying fewer office supplies.


profits – earnings; the amount of money a business makes

* When opening a new restaurant, don’t expect an profits in the first six months.

quarter – the amount of money a company earns over a three month period; the amount of money a company earns in one of four three-month periods each year

* Profits this quarter were higher than the profits last quarter because of our new advertising campaign.


to lose one's job – to no longer have the job that one once had

* Samuel lost his job last year but found another job two months later.


salary – the money one earns for working

* Darla works at a museum and earns a salary of $30,000 every year.


benefits – good things one receives from a company or business one works for other money, such as health insurance and paid vacation time

* The company gave its workers many benefits like health insurance, life insurance, and a retirement plan.


blow – something bad that happens when one is not expecting it and has a very bad effect on one’s life

* Loosing his job was a huge blow to Carlos since he and his wife just had a baby and really needed the money.


to be axed – to be told that one no longer works for the company or business one worked at; to lose one’s job

* Gertrude was axed from her job because she lied on her resume.


pink slip – written notice that one no longer has a job; a piece of paper that says one lost one’s job

* Jim is hoping he won’t get a pink slip before the end of the year.


job hunting – the process of looking for a new job; the process of searching for a new place to work

* When Aurora graduated college, she started job hunting and wanted to find work as a nurse.


on the market – available for work; able to be hired for work

* When Ronald quit his job at the bank, he went on the market to look for a new job.


to get a line on (something) – to get information about an opportunity; to find out about the possibility of getting something that one wants

* After looking for a teaching job for five months, Marietta finally got a line on a job in the next city.

Culture Note
Lying on a Resume

A “resume” is a document that lists a person’s education and “training” (formal learning beyond the degrees they’ve earned), their qualifications, their work experience, and any special skills. It’s not unusual for “jobseekers” (people looking for jobs) to “pad” (make bigger or more substantial than something really is) their resumes just a little bit to sound more “impressive” (causing others to admire them). In fact, most employers in the United States know to “deduct” (subtract; take away from a number) a little from each resume they read, assuming that most people have “exaggerated” (made something larger than it really is) their qualifications, experience, or skills in some way.

This exaggeration, while not completely honest, is generally expected and accepted. What is considered “unethical” (morally wrong) and unacceptable, of course, is “out-and-out” (complete; clear) lying on one’s resume. In 2012, the “CEO” (Chief Executive Officer; the top manager of a company) of the popular website Yahoo!, Scott Thompson, was “fired” (had his job taken away) for this “very” (exact) reason. It was discovered that his official “bio” (biography; short description of a person’s life) listed a college degree in “computer science” (the study of computers) from a college in Massachusetts that he didn’t have. The truth was that he received a degree in “accounting” (the study of the organization and reporting of financial information) from the same college. That may seem like a small “distinction” (difference) in most people’s minds, but in Silicon Valley, the area in Northern California where many technology companies are located and many computer scientists and “engineers” (people who design and build machines and other things) work, this was a “big deal” (significant or important event).

Of course this was not the first time that a major “public figure” (person known to many people) has been caught “fibbing” (telling small lies). Most people who have been “outed” (had a secret or lie made public) lose their jobs, like Thompson did.