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Workplace Refrain: Brother, Can You Spare A Christmas Party? With GRAPHIC Wall Street-Xmas

December 16, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ Two classes of employees are celebrating the holidays this year: Workers on Wall Street. And those just thankful to be working.

As large investment banks shower employees with bonuses and all-expense- paid bashes, many nonfinancial companies from copy machine giant Xerox Corp. to magazine publisher Time Inc. are scrapping or scaling back traditional Christmas amenities.

Rather than gripe, many workers feel lucky to be around at all.

″In some cases, if companies have had cutbacks in the labor force, then they can’t in all good conscience have a party,″ says Lore Moser, a veteran coordinator of corporate parties in New York. ″The other employees feel, ’What a terrible thing, you fired my friend and now you’re having a $150-a- person Christmas party.‴

Plenty of non-financial companies still regale their workers; conversely, some Wall Street firms are more conservative this year. But the extent of holiday celebrations clearly mirrors the disparities among companies’ 1993 earnings statements.

Pressured by competition and stagnant sales in a sluggish economic recovery, companies including Philip Morris Cos. Inc. and RJR Nabisco Inc. are shedding thousands of jobs. Wall Street firms, meanwhile, posted sharp profit increases, reaping the benefits of a three-year rally in the stock and bond markets.

Goldman, Sachs & Co. reportedly is giving a majority of its 8,000 employees year-end bonuses of 30 percent of their annual pay - up from 25 percent last year. A company spokesman refused to comment. Goldman, a private partnership, isn’t required to publicly disclose earnings or compensation.

The party industry says Wall Street bashes also are getting more lavish.

″This year we are filled and then some. Wall Street is definitely entertaining,″ says Adam Weiss, senior vice president at Bridgewaters in lower Manhattan, a glass-enclosed party spot overlooking the East River that is a popular choice of large investment banks.

Weiss says holiday business is up 20 percent this year and the average firm has boosted spending by $10 per person, to up to $120 per head, for fancier food and other niceties. Many parties are running for five hours, up from four.

Popular party fare at Bridgewaters this year ranges from seafood couscous and whole sliced leg of lamb to a Jewish-American buffet of sliced brisket, potato pancakes and noodle pudding with golden raisins.

Outside of Wall Street, though, many companies have halted parties at fancy clubs, catering halls and restaurants.

Xerox Corp., which announced early this month it was cutting 10,000 jobs, is no longer treating its Rochester, N.Y. public relations staff to a hot holiday buffet. Instead, employees are baking cookies at a co-worker’s home.

Hunkering down against declining advertising revenues, Time Inc. told staff of its Time, Fortune, and other magazines to hold parties at its midtown Manhattan headquarters this year instead of nightclubs and restaurants.

Many parties that survive the ax are less fancy. One company that previously went with a 12-piece orchestra has now opted for a DJ, saving thousands of dollars, says Moser.

Adds Tom Hamill of Fisher & Levy, a New York caterer of parties held on company premises: ″Certain of my clients last year who might have spent $5,000 on a Christmas party are calling me and saying, ’Oh, we can only spend $2,000 for the same amount of people.‴

″We have to edit out some of the pricey items - there goes the shrimp cocktail, no more caviar.″

Many companies have turned traditional holiday bonuses into tools for restoring profitability, replacing automatic cash rewards with incentive pay linked to financial performance. About 68 percent of companies offer such alternative rewards, up from 51 percent in 1991, according to a survey by Hewitt Associates of Lincolnshire, Ill.

″I am finding that this year is not a particularly fat year for most companies’ bonus systems or incentive plans,″ said management consultant Craig Schneier of Princeton, N.J. ″Even those companies that have done well aren’t comfortable flaunting their success.″

Scott Paper Co., facing slumping profits this year, has toughened its criteria for bonuses awarded its 6,000 salaried workers, linking the money to the performance of the overall company, business units and employees themselves.

The bonuses, doled out in March, range from up to 8 percent of salary for secretaries to up to 65 percent for corporate officers.

Says Scott spokeswoman Laura Boyce: ″We did it so that our employees could think more like shareholders.″

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