Nabs struggles as job crisis mounts

LONDON - Nabs is being swamped with calls from newly redundant agency staff and others facing the axe, fuelling fears that the industry is rapidly shedding jobs in the face of recession.

Staff at the advertising charity are being stretched to the limit dealing with calls about redundancy-related matters and say they have seen nothing like it since the economic slump of the early Nineties.

The number of calls to Nabs' helpline has risen by almost 60 per cent over the past six weeks. This is in addition to the redundancy victims who are already being helped.

Meanwhile, pressures on the Nabs Career Exchange, the charity's fully equipped office space for job seekers, has become so great that people wanting to use it are being rationed to two hours a day.

Waiting lists may have to be introduced for the first time.

Nabs chiefs are so worried about the situation that they turned this week's monthly session of their general management committee into an emergency session in which almost the entire agenda was given over to discussing ways of dealing with the crisis.

Now the charity, which normally raises about £1.2 million a year through corporate donations and events such as its Boxing Night, fears it could go into the red if it does not receive sustained support.

However, cash-strapped ad agencies are increasingly reluctant to provide it. A Nabs five-a-side football tournament taking place in two weeks' time is likely to be much smaller than usual because agencies are refusing to pay the £500 entry fee.

Carol Reay, the Nabs chairman, said: "Not only are we having to revise our structure to cope with the demand, we're also having to extend our fundraising efforts to target operations such as new-media agencies and design companies."

Kate Harris, the director of Nabs, added: "The industry lost 20 per cent of its workforce in the last recession and there are real fears it could happen again. I think things are going to get worse."

She believes the upsurge in its activities is the result of agencies "battening down the hatches" as the economic storm brews.

Belinda Kent-Lemon, a human resources consultant who specialises in finding new jobs for displaced agency executives, said: "My phone hasn't stopped ringing with calls from people of all ages and experience."

She added: "It isn't necessarily because their agencies have lost a piece of business but because they deem these people expendable. Everybody is holding their breath in the hope things will pick up after the summer. The next three weeks are crucial."

Nabs says corporate donations will need to rise if calls on the charity are to be met. Income from Nabs events has already dropped by a quarter.