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The calls that can end in tears

Nick Servini graphic
Nick Servini
BBC Wales business correspondent

It's been a devastating November for the Welsh economy.

In a frenzied fortnight alone, more than 4,000 jobs are either being cut or are under threat.

And those are the high profile announcements that we know about. There will be a huge number of small companies letting staff go which fall below the radar.

The speed of the announcements reminds me of the story told by a property consultant in Cardiff who said that good news travels down the M4 from London at 50 miles an hour but bad news travels down at 80.

Workers leaving Budelpack
Workers leaving the Budelpack factory in Maesteg on Friday

As a business correspondent, there has been a daily pattern.

It begins with an ominous phone call from a union official or a worker to say serious cutbacks are being planned, that's then confirmed fairly soon after by the company with the statement that begins with the inevitable period of consultation.

Things probably reached a head last Friday with the first round of mass redundancies that took immediate effect at the Budelpack cosmetics factory in Maesteg.

Stabilise

Tearful workers walking out of a factory they've been at for 20 or more years without any redundancy payments from the company, just a few weeks before Christmas, is about as bad as it gets for anyone.

One union official told me it won't really sink in until this week when they wake up for the start of the early shift at the factory, only to find there's no work to go to.

The new announcement from the Royal Bank of Scotland that it will give people more time before considering home repossessions will be the kind of thing that could be hugely important in the new year in places like Maesteg.

In the short term the question now is whether December will follow in the same vein as last month.

My guess is that things will stabilise in the build-up to Christmas. For example, no-one will want to pull the plug on a retailer now because even if they're loss-making.

Now is the time they should make at least some money.

And most of the smaller operators won't want to issue bad news right before Christmas if they possibly can.

The first few months of the new year will be critical.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones summed it up when he said that will be the time when people hold their breath.

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