Here we present results including the respondents’ demographic profile, the state of their mental health, and the ways in which they felt job loss affected them both psychologically and materially.
The interview sample comprised 27 men and six women, reflecting the gender representation in the Mitsubishi workforce. Their median age was 47.4 years with an age range from 29 to 63 years. The median employment term at Mitsubishi was 19 years, spanning one to 39 years. Workers held diverse positions ranging from managerial to process or production work. One respondent earned more than $130,000; three earned between $78,000 and $130,000; nine between $52,000 and $78,000; ten between $41,000 and $52,000; and ten below $41,000. This compared with average wages in Metropolitan Adelaide in 2004 which were $37,000 .
We asked workers about the psychological implications of job loss and a small number spoke of positive changes. Two workers no longer felt the stress of uncertainty, another two were able to leave the poor working conditions in the foundry, two found new jobs immediately, and three spoke of flexibility and more time to spend with children. These results support a review by Hanisch  showing that job loss may eventually be viewed positively by some workers as it can facilitate a change of career and life direction [59, 60], as well as leaving unchallenging or unsatisfying employment, building upon competencies, and re-evaluating career goals and priorities . However, many respondents reported a range of negative feelings and psychological outcomes including depression and, at the extreme end, suicidal ideation experienced by two workers.
As Tracy explained, workers had been living with uncertainty for an extended period of time prior to job loss. She claimed:
"It’s just a very depressing place there sometimes … From the day I started people were telling me it was finishing up now, that was eight years before it shut down.
(Tracy, aged 31, production worker)
Some workers who told of extreme distress indicated that they were possibly experiencing clinical depression. Doreen, whose husband had also worked at Mitsubishi, stated:
"My husband is not very well and he doesn’t do much at all. He’s depressed, so he’s very hard to motivate… With depression people sink into black holes and they can’t do anything…He took [redundancy] really badly because he had been there 37 years and he was home ill [at the time of the announcements]… No-one contacted him until I’d say about five or six months afterwards … [and] that made the depression worse … They [Mitsubishi] were supposed to send a counsellor to him and they never did.
(Doreen, aged 59, canteen worker)
Raymond spoke of suicidal behaviour when responding to a question about whether redundancy had affected his mental health. He claimed:
"Yeah, mentally it has - it was there from the start, but I sort of kept ignoring until it gradually got to the stage where it just blew up, where I had to tell somebody. That’s when I told my local doctor and that and that’s when [s/he] sent me to a shrink and when the police came around to pick up the rifles… I was suicidal because I was starting to get depressed with not earning as much as I used to and not being able to pay the bills and that.
(Raymond, aged 51, maintenance worker)
Angas, a second worker who experienced suicidal ideation, identified a further dimension to the issue of counselling availability raised by Doreen. He argued that his emotional state was so precarious that it precluded him from making even positive choices in support of his health. These included accessing available post-retrenchment material supports, and access to counselling made available to workers. As Angas explained:
"I’ve been so stressed that the support services might be there, but because of my circumstances I’m just off the planet in the sense like I’m trying to deal with myself, sort of getting myself together kind of thing and I don’t think people realise what this does. It’s soul destroying and you’ve got to pick yourself up …[then] You’ve got to pay your rent and stuff like that and people don’t realise that it’s not a small thing.
(Angas, aged 55, tradesman)
Angas’ is one account highlighting why it may sometimes be extremely difficult for an individual to exercise creative agency in support of his or her health, as agency is bound up with internal conflicts as well as structural constraints . Angas’ explanation suggests that he is just ‘getting by’ under Lister’s agency typology; engaging his agency to meet just basic needs. He also alludes to experiencing social suffering encompassing the interior world of psychic suffering and the external world of structural oppression . For although Angas had been the recipient of a relatively generous redundancy package tied to his years of service, this alone did not mediate the psychological consequences of job loss. He explained:
"Since then I became - at some stage there, because of the circumstances, I did become suicidal and how can I put it? When I got the money [redundancy package] I mean I was sitting down twiddling my thumbs wondering what I was going to do with myself."
Respondents who gave accounts of distress or low levels of mental or psychological health associated this with experiencing stress, changes to their perceived control, loss of self-esteem, shame and loss of status, grief or a grieving process, and financial strain; factors that are explored in the following sections.
Stress is a ‘state of mental, emotional, or other strain’  p. 85. Most respondents claimed to have experienced stress from job loss. They linked this to ‘all the guys leaving’, experiencing ‘roller coaster emotions’, ‘leaving a comfort zone’, and from having a ‘draining and emotional’ worker support role. Reflecting the literature on the stress associated with job insecurity and the threat of redundancy [10, 14, 63] Raymond noted:
"[The media] were putting rumours in saying they were closing down before [the CEO] had a chance to publicly tell everyone and I think that hurt a lot because a lot of people were scared, and then all of a sudden when he did announce it, it hit a lot of people very emotionally … it hit hard, and some very hard. (
Raymond, aged 51, maintenance worker)
Douglas, a general manager aged 58, told of the stress of uncertainty generated by on-going media speculation about rumoured downsizing and closure and claimed:
"I suppose the uncertainty over the years of rumours, discussion about whether or not we were going to succeed, because every time that came up our sales would drop and so a track of that over the years shows any uncertainty cost us sales. …sometimes it’s difficult too with overseas management making decisions in a global sense that affect us."
Doreen claimed to have experienced stress from bearing the brunt other workers’ heightened emotions, and from:
"saying goodbye to all the men. It was dreadful. There were some that were very happy to go. And then there were people, men my age … You knew they’d never work again. Some of them were crying. Some of them were really angry. You know, saying that they had lost the choice of working till they were 65. It had been taken away from them. How dare people do that to them? Then there were people going straight from there into another job, so they were ecstatic. It was just a whole range of different emotions. And that was, in my opinion, it was pretty horrible.
(Doreen aged 59, canteen worker)
Doreen’s account highlights her own stress, but also the other workers’ negative emotions including shame, anger, guilt and shock . It also notes that positive feelings are sometimes experienced by those who see job loss as an opportunity rather than as a threat. This diversity of seemingly contradictory emotional responses to the same life event of job loss was displayed quite openly within the more informal canteen setting.
Certain roles at Mitsubishi emerged as being particularly stressful, with negative emotional outcomes. Rosslyn, facing her own redundancy while supporting others through the implementation process as part of her employment role, stated:
"I must admit that I’ve been up and down and some days I’ve been quite teary … Because you know, on some days, it sounds awful, but some days, if anybody sort of yelled at me or I did something wrong, I’d have to go. Because I’d be in tears and you hate it, you really do. You feel that you’re out of control.
(Rosslyn, aged 45, administrative assistant)
In her worker support role Rosslyn was both the target of, and responsible for dealing with other workers’ grief and anger, and these projected emotions had touched an aspect of her interior self that at times had made it all too much to bear. The stress of supporting others while also being concerned and anxious about her own future job prospects took a toll in ways Rosslyn felt she did not fully understand. She claimed:
"You find sometimes that you are sort of lashing out in a way, and you don’t mean to, but you do. And being aware of that… Just different emotions and that. And you sort of wonder now, is this the job? Am I anxious? What am I worried about? …and sort of being conscious and aware of that."
Raymond, who was also responsible for supporting retrenched employees throughout the redundancy process, claimed to have been affected ‘emotionally and psychologically’. He stated that he too had ‘lashed out’, and that he had to ‘hold it [his emotions] back’ because:
"I couldn’t be seen to be upset because I had to try and be there for other workers … Well I tried not to show it at home either but I know occasionally I did lash out and yell at [my partner] and that.
(Raymond aged 51, maintenance worker)
Rosslyn’s and Raymond’s accounts illustrate Hoggett’s conception of non-reflexive, or impulsive agency, for by ‘lashing out’ unreflexively they reveal the potential for unintended consequences from the ‘human capacities for destructiveness towards self and others’  p. 37.
While the majority of workers claimed to have experienced stress a small minority had not, and as Rex explained this was because:
"I just sort of accepted the decision. Probably on the day it was announced it didn’t sort of sink in … but even when it did, it didn’t really – maybe I thought about it for an hour one day or something, then I thought ‘oh well we’ve got eighteen months to worry about it’. (
Rex aged 60, a trainer)
For Owen, the ongoing speculation of redundancy blunted rather than intensified the stress of job insecurity because it made it appear more likely. He stated:
"It [speculation] had been going on for probably six, seven years that I can think of. Everyone tells you Mitsubishi is going to close down… We hear about it on the wireless and news before we’d get told at Mitsubishi … So it just got to the stage where you just say ‘oh well if it happens it happens”. I suppose in one way there’d probably be a sense of ease to know what was finally happening. (
Owen, aged 56, plant operator)
This response is typical of the findings of an Australian study on job insecurity  which showed that certainty of job status, and even certain redundancy, may be less psychologically damaging than prolonged insecurity. In understanding seemingly contradictory responses to job loss by the same individual, one process worker explained that he had not experienced stress as he was facing a potentially life-limiting illness and was relieved to no longer have to work. Job loss was therefore the lesser of two negative life impacts. Workers’ accounts of stress also highlight a link to agency and changes to perceived control.
Changes to perceived control
The qualitative analysis of respondents’ accounts of whether job loss had affected their level of perceived control showed that the majority claimed less perceived control. They spoke in terms of ‘pressure’, and ‘no motivation to get up in the morning’. Garth (aged 37) a senior trainer who embraced full time tertiary study never-the-less felt constrained by outside forces. He said ‘I basically lost a lot of control because I had to just turn things upside down and go down a whole new road’. Ken (aged 36), a production worker living with a serious mental illness explained that while he was at Mitsubishi he had a routine, but ‘[now] not having the workplace hanging over my head I don’t have that control to get up in the morning and be motivated’. Ken’s account shows how the secure structure provided by employment can be lost following retrenchment . Doreen (aged 59) a canteen worker maintained:
"I just felt out of control, I just felt like I have got no control over my life anymore … It’s very frustrating looking for work and not getting anything. They [potential employers] don’t even answer your letters. I don’t know how people cope with it."
These accounts by workers who experienced less perceived control often reflected Hoggett’s conception of the self as ‘reflexive object’, in the way in which they were able to reflect on the meaning of their job loss while feeling powerless to overcome the negative impacts  p. 50.
Ted (aged 60), a former mechanic, was one of three workers who instead perceived greater control following job loss as he felt he had ‘more control now’ in retirement. Forty five year old process worker Morris was unable to work due to a serious illness, but perceived greater control from ‘no longer having to justify things and be reliable’. When asked about whether job loss had affected his perceived control Michael (aged 39), a maintenance manager and a confident, assured worker who had already experienced a prior redundancy responded:
"No. Not at all. It actually increased it. It made my wife and I a bit more determined to be self sufficient. And it’s driven us in a different tangent now to being dependent on a wage coming in."
Michael explained how he engaged his creative agency to devise strategies to ‘get out’ of the constraints of any future redundancy, stating:
"I mean I’m young, I’m keen and this is the second time in my life I’ve been made redundant. So being made redundant didn’t matter a stuff for me. I’ve got income insurance [protection]. I’ve got my mortgage insured so if I went on the dole well, I’m covered. But I actively engaged in my own employment so that doesn’t happen to me. But a lot of these other people they didn’t do it."
Michael’s account projects Hoggett’s stance of a creative self-as-agent, a person who is an active shaper of personal destiny even if not under the circumstances of his or her own choosing. Michael fits Lister’s typology of a person ‘getting out of’ job loss by employing strategic agency or making longer-term investments to avoid the risks associated with future redundancy. Some other workers perceived they gained greater control from the financial security offered by receiving a carer’s pension, or becoming eligible for employment benefits while able to volunteer in lieu of undertaking paid work.
For respondents who claimed no change to perceived control financial security was a common ameliorating factor. John, a manager for 25 years, expressed a raft of negative outcomes from job loss, but maintained his level of perceived control from the financial security of a redundancy package, cited by many workers as a very enabling structure. Most responses indicating no change to perceived control supported the wider literature showing the links to secure financial status . However, two workers claimed that they maintained control by actively embracing new opportunities, including starting a small business and returning to study after 20 years.
Loss of self-esteem, shame and loss of status
Self-esteem is the positive self-regard that promotes a sense of approval and success and acts as a spur to agency . While facing her own retrenchment, Sylvia was concerned about her partner’s emotional well-being in the face of his concurrent redundancy. She explained:
"He lost all his confidence. He feels very unsure of himself and because he doesn’t have any trade skills he feels, not useless, but he can’t find anything other than factory work because that’s all he’s known
. (Sylvia, aged 55, production worker)
Raymond aged 51, a maintenance worker, claimed ‘I was brought up as a breadwinner. I don’t feel like I’m doing that now. So I feel a bit inferior and insufficient sort of thing’. His account supports the research showing the negative impact on men who lose their ‘breadwinner’ role  and that people denied the status and respect linked to employment and income become vulnerable to feeling inferior and worthless ; or ‘degraded’ as Reg put it:
"It’s a sense of loss, you know and it’s unhappy to see what people used to do and the skills they had at Mitsi’s [sic] and then see what they’ve degraded to you know; what job roles they’ve got and things like that. Yeah, you can sort of see that they're just all unhappy.
(Reg aged 40, section manager)
Reg experienced loss of self-esteem after accepting a 13 week government-subsidised contract, claiming:
"I’ve gone from a managerial role to more of a baby sitter’s role, so it is probably more demeaning to myself at the moment … I’m not being able to offer the best to the company of what skills I’ve got. So that’s probably changed me a bit."
Wally, aged 63, a vehicle auditor, maintained:
"I think the value of yourself changes, I think you feel as if you’re not as valuable as you used to be but whether that’s old age as well."
David experienced shame from:
"mental pressure, the actual pressure, you can see yourself going downhill through ill health and you’re thinking that they’re going to see that you’re no good anymore.
(David, age 57, tradesman)
In distinction, Ronald claimed to have maintained his self-esteem, even though facing a range of negative outcomes including financial constraints because he had not:
"noticed any [age] discrimination or anything in that area and that is good. In fact a couple of places seem to appreciate experience … And everyone seemed happy with what I do, so I’m quite pleased about that.
(Ronald, aged 62, professional worker)
Ronald’s account supports the claim that self-esteem may be endorsed by feelings of approval and from the success of ‘high attainment’ .
Experiencing a grieving process
The majority of respondents gave affirmative responses to a question about whether they had experienced a ‘grieving process’; expressing it in terms of ‘nostalgia for the environment’, ‘another hit’, a ‘shock to the system’, or having ‘no chance to say goodbye’. One worker felt ‘a pinch in the heart’ while another claimed ‘I can’t get it out of my system’. Tyson displayed a grief reaction when witnessing the decommissioning of equipment after 10 years of his productive labour. He said:
"I was grieving because I nearly ended up just stepping away. I said to my wife it’s really hard, I found it really hard, even to the point of getting a bit tight in the throat side of emotion because when you saw the equipment you just wanted to make an artificial wreath because it got you so frustrated to see all that, and it was like final and it was like ‘wow’.
(Tyson, aged 46, production worker)
However, a minority of workers did not experience grief but instead were glad for other options. Roger, aged 49, a foundry worker for 20 years, stated ‘I was glad to leave and have the opportunity to do something else which was good … I thought it was like a golden opportunity really’. Others were relieved that redundancy had finally happened, or felt that it was time for a change. While in a minority, these workers’ responses supported the literature showing that job loss may eventually be viewed positively, as it can facilitate a change of career and life direction .
No worker stated that they had received a higher income on taking up subsequent employment, and while a few cited comparable income to Mitsubishi, even if tied to more stringent working conditions, most claimed they were earning less; some significantly less. One respondent with a young family and living on Austudy benefits for eligible students was receiving the equivalent of one quarter of his previous wage. Three stated they were earning half their previous wage, a worker who set up a small business was earning AUS $30,000 less per annum, with another earning AUS $20,000 less.
Although choosing the best available employment option, Michael was resigned to accepting a level of pay that was ‘very, very low’ and on leaving Mitsubishi he had to:
"let go all my overtime, I had to let go of my shift allowance, I had to let go of my company car. So I lost, I was on round about $78,000 or $79,000 at Mitsubishi. I’m on $60,000 at [new employment] and haven’t had a pay increase for 15 months.
(Michael, age 39, manager)
Likewise, Richard stated:
"We’re getting a lot less than what we were at Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi had a structured payment for the number of years you’re there and they recognise that and pay you a formula. Nowadays you just contract and it’s a set wage and I’ve gone to monthly wage instead of fortnightly wage.
(Richard, aged 45, engineer)
When asked about their financial status during their second interview, many workers spoke of financial strain, such as needing to ‘tighten up the purse strings’, ‘having less disposable income’, or ‘needing to be more careful’. Workers told of being ‘on a very tight budget’, ‘being 61 and this was not in the plan’, and not sleeping ‘due to worry about bills’. Raymond explained:
"you start becoming frugal like for example using the least electric power as possible. I don’t use my gas oven. Probably the only thing that’s used is when I go and have a shower, that’s the only time the gas is used… I have to be frugal because I’ve got to make the money last as long as possible because it’s going to run out.
(Raymond, aged 51, maintenance worker)
Respondents’ accounts support the conclusion that negative economic consequences of job loss often include considerably reduced wages and earnings in future employment . Those who were in a much worse financial position suggested they were just ‘getting by’ in Lister’s terms because they were ‘trying to weather the storm’ or experiencing a ‘major struggle’. Ken aged 36, a production worker living with a severe mental illness, highlighted the direct link between the financial constraints of job loss and mental health, explaining:
"Since leaving Mitsubishi I’ve financially struggled and it weighs on your mental state not having that regular income, and it caused a bit more stress."
Respondents’ accounts of financial strain highlighted constraints to their agency, with Angas experiencing financial strain from trying to survive on the basics of life. This was:
"stress in itself because you don’t get a good sleep, you’re thinking to yourself heck I’ve got bills, I mean you still have to pay your bills, still got the electricity bill coming in, and gas bill. You’ve got to register your vehicles and stuff, still got to buy food and things like that, it just goes on and on and on and slowly the money that you have got is depleting.
(Angas, aged 55, tradesman)
Elliott, aged 54, a toolmaker and safety representative, best summarises the workers’ overall financial position, stating ‘I would basically say that money is tighter and [we are] probably struggling more than we were, but we are managing’. These accounts support the wider literature on constraints to agency and social engagement due to precarious employment .