In the news today are several large companies announcing large layoffs, including Caterpillar, ING Group, Sprint Nextel, Pfizer, Home Depot, Deere, Philips and Corus. Total job cuts announced today total approximately 61,000 jobs.

Caterpillar, the construction giant will be cutting 20,000 jobs. These job losses are in line with a 25% decline in sales volume.

ING Group, the Dutch financial services company, will shed 7,000 jobs as a result of losses from toxic mortgage debt.

Sprint Nextel is cutting 14% of its workforce, or 8,000 jobs, as it seeks to cut annual costs by $1.2 billion. The company has struggled recently to compete with other feature-rich phone providers and had difficulty successfully merging Sprint and Nextel together.

Pfizer, the world’s largest prescription drug maker plans to cut at least 4,000 jobs as it merges with Wyeth, a smaller competitor. On the bright side, this is the first big merger backed by Wall Street in months.

Pfizer's Jeffrey Kindler. Source: The New York Times
Pfizer's Jeffrey Kindler. Source: The New York Times

Home Depot will slash 7,000 jobs, or 2% of its workforce, to help survive the extended retail slump.

Farm-equipment maker Deere & Co. says it will lay off or temporarily reassign almost 700 workers at factories in Brazil and Iowa.

Europe’s largest consumer electronics group, Royal Philips Electronics will cut its workforce by 6,000 worldwide this year after reporting its first quarterly loss for almost six years.

Britain’s largest steelmaker, Corus, is poised to cut up to 3,500 jobs this week in one of the biggest blows yet to the faltering manufacturing sector.

Additionally, the United States Postal Service continues to talk about impending layoffs, but has not released information about when it might make such a move or how many people it would need to lay off.

American Postal Workers Union President William Burrus last week:

Approximately 3,500 APWU-represented employees are exposed to the possibility of layoffs. The remaining APWU-represented employees are protected, but other changes will affect them, including relocations and reassignments. Part-time flexible and light-duty employees will experience work-hour reductions to a level that cannot support a family. The toleration for absences from work will be diminished, so that many absences will be challenged, requiring the application of the contractual “just cause” standard.

Until mail volume returns to previous levels, postal employees should anticipate that many, many changes will be imposed. The union will apply the contractual standards to each change, but many will be beyond the contractual limitations.