Secretarial: The Temp: Time for action
Wednesday 03 February 1999
Management are using phrases like "tough decisions", "global recession", "if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem".
The employees, meanwhile, with the prospect of seeing less of their families, more of each other and no change to their pay packets, have called a union meeting.
I'm a great believer in the union movement, but have never had the opportunity either to join one or to attend a meeting, there being no union for downtrodden temporary workers (and if there were, I'm not sure what we'd discuss: the plenty-more-where-you-came-from rule, perhaps?), so I was thrilled when Candy suggested I might want to come and watch.
I should have remembered that we live in an age where The Strawbs' satire on Seventies workforce obduracy, "Part of the Union", is used, seemingly without irony, as an advertising jingle for personal pensions.
Sally, union rep, waited until everyone had stopped gossiping, then said: "Well, we've a lot to get through. Does anyone want to kick off the debate on the new proposals?" and a profound silence fell. Nobody, it seemed, wanted to stand out. Finally, someone put their hand up and Sally gave him the floor.
"I think we should vote on whether to discuss the matter," he said to the group.
"Thanks, Ken," said Sally. "Does anyone want to second that?"
A young woman put her hand up.
"OK, thanks, Jan. All in favour?"
"No," said Jan, "I wasn't seconding. I was going to say that it was a waste of time to vote on it." About 15 people heaved sighs.
"Good point," said Sally. "But it's been proposed now, and if we start a debate on whether or not to vote on this, we'll never get to debate the proposals."
"Oh, yeah," said Jan. "Then I might as well just second it, then."
Everyone in voted in favour. Finally, Ken stood up and started the ball rolling.
"I think it's a disgrace," he said. "They can't seriously expect us to take this lying down. I work more than my contracted hours as it is. We must do something."
"Anyone else?" said Sally.
"Yes." A lad with spots over by the kitchen hatch stuck his hand up. "I just want to say that they can't be allowed to treat us like this. I don't want to work extra hours for no more money, and I'm sure nobody else does, either."
And then the floodgates opened. Once a couple of people had had their say, everyone, it seemed, wanted to repeat them. The clock ticked away over Sally's head as voice after voice was added to the consensus: "It's a disgrace." "They can't get away with it." "I'm not paid enough as it is."
Lunch hour came to an end, and people started looking at their watches. And on droned the downtrodden: "My wife never sees me as it is"; "I worked 50 hours a week last month"; "Do they think we're machines?"
And I realised that the function of democracy in the Nineties is to give everyone so much opportunity to get their voice heard that they never have the time to take any action. Finally, people started edging toward the door, surreptitiously slipping their coats on, and Sally decided to call a halt.
"OK," she said. "So we take a vote on whether to take a ballot on whether to get the Electoral Reform society to run an official ballot on whether we censure the company. All those in favour? Against?
"Now!" she yelled at the retreating backs, "we've some business left over from last time. If you remember, we had to stop before we could vote on whether to put the procedures in effect to take a ballot on censuring the company over the redundancies. Anyone got anything to add? No? OK, All those in... yes, Jack, you had
something to say...?"
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
The Walking Dead, Remember, review: The discovery of a new community leads Rick to a dark decision
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'