Letter: Short-time deals are nothing new

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Sir: Congratulations to Sheffield ('Council unions back short-time pay deals', 3 March).

However, they were not first in the field. In January 1952, I was 21 and a staff manager for Marks & Spencer at Stratford-upon-Bow. I was faced with a demand to reduce our staff quota. Fortunately, since 60 per cent of our business was done on a Saturday, we had a very high proportion of part-time staff.

After a meeting at which I put the alternatives to 60 part-timers - lose jobs or share reduced hours for the promise of a return to full working as soon as the holiday season began - the 'girls', many of them old enough to be my mother, voted for a drop in hours. This verbal agreement was effective, since the 'sub-clause' was: 'Whatever we agree now cannot be changed by one person coming to me afterwards asking for special treatment.'

I did not have to 'sack', as it was then called in a more honest age, anyone; nor did the firm have to go through the expense of retraining new people in a few months' time. The manager rated my chances of pulling it off as nil.

I said then in 1952, and I say again in 1993: give it a try. By everyone doing a little, we can beat the recession - and its chief evil, unemployment.

Yours faithfully,

PATRICIA C TUCKMAN

London, SW13

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