When the merger of Amoco Oil and British Petroleum (whose BP America unit was headquartered in Cleveland) was announced in the summer of 98, it quickly became apparent that the deal would spell the end of hundreds of jobs suddenly rendered expendable by the giant consolidation.
But an innovative, if little noticed, outplacement feature established by the combined companies has cushioned the blow considerably for employees caught in the crossfire. Its also become something of a bonanza for smaller Cleveland-based companies that have skimmed off some of the employment cream.
The BP Amoco Continuous Job Fair, built on a college job recruiting model, debuted earlier this year on the World Wide Web. It offered hundreds of employees affected by the job cuts access to a database of available job listings, and permitted employers and their agents to scan employee resumes.
The site, launched in January, was originally developed specifically for the 1,200 Cleveland-based employees, who were expected to be affected by the job cuts, explains Marcia Bakst, a Cleveland-based recruiting consultant who manages the site. Initially, it was available only internally through the companys intranet.
But within weeks, as it became apparent that the merger would also lead to downsizing in other areas of the country Chicago, Houston and Tulsa, Okla., as well as Alaska workers there were also permitted to take advantage of the site, which by then had been transferred to the Web, where it remains, at www.bpemployees.com.
From there, it wasnt long before affected BP and Amoco employees in remote postings took advantage of the service. Resumes began arriving from employees based as far away as Belgium. Several even arrived electronically from employees stationed on drilling platforms in the middle of the ocean.
There have to be 2,500-3,000 resumes on there, says Bakst, though many belong to people who have long since found new employment.
The ground rules for taking part in this electronic employment bazaar are fairly straightforward, according to instructions posted on the site. Employees of either petroleum company may post resumes and other personal information and can view employment ads.
Employers or their ad agencies may post job ads and appraise candidates resumes. But head-hunters and employment agencies are barred.
Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate requests from the hundreds of search firms and staffing services who have contacted us ... Only direct-hire companies are eligible for access to this Web site, it explains.
The first batch of downsized employees became available around February, with a larger wave coming on the market in June. At summers end, a large group of employees at the BP Chemical site in Warrensville Heights were phased out, but many of those specialized workers had already lined up new positions.
Bakst says that under ordinary circumstances, she would have expected that large groups of BP alumni might have gone en masse to individual employers in the Cleveland area. Thus far, though, the largest group headed to any one employer appears to have been the four former BPers who landed at the investment firm Roulston & Co.
A year after the merger announcement, at least two significant groups of employees, both still on the job, remain available. In-house computer programmers working on fixing BP-Amocos Y2K issues in the waning days of the year are not expected to become available until some time in the second quarter of next year.
But by all accounts, area employers seem to be reserving their hungriest glances for the more than 200 call-center employees who continue to service BP credit cards from downtowns Midland Building and a satellite office near Hopkins Airport, but who are due to lose their positions this fall when the merged company outsources that function.
So many employers from banks to credit card issuer MBNA to OfficeMax over the months have told me, Call me when those people are free, says Bakst. She estimates at least 30 companies will wage a spirited competition to hire these people as soon as theyre available, probably beginning this month.
As for those hardy souls on the wind-swept drilling rigs dotting the seven seas, theres no word yet on their future employment plans.
As for Bakst, formerly the recruitment advertising director for the suburban Sun Newspaper chain, shes hoping this unusual assignment will provide a springboard to other similar Web-based outplacement efforts as the BP engagement begins to wind down at years end.
Thats my hope, she says. Ive been contacted by a number of Internet job boards ... I cant say this site was unprecedented, but I havent seen anyone else doing outplacement on the Web like this.
How to reach: Employers can register to take part in the virtual job fair simply by logging on to www.bpemployees.com, and following the user-friendly instructions. Marcia Bakst can be reached at (216) 381-7385.
John Ettorre (email@example.com) is a contributing editor at SBN.