He had always wanted to sit on that machine. It was not like the others that were painted dark grey or maroon. It was white with colourful blobs, it was the most expensive, it had a seat with levers to go up and down and round and round.
“Good morning everybody. My name is Kaolin Church. For those of you who don't know me, I was the company accountant and financial officer until five years ago when I retired. Mr Potter has asked me to manage the company during his illness, Mr Potter is very ill, Mr Potter has only a few days to live. However, he is not in pain and has asked me to give you his best regards for the future.”
“Five years ago I did not know what the little things, that you make, did. I didn't have to, it was loud in here, the machines ran all day and all night, the order books were full, the company was very profitable.”
“I now know what the little things are, but it doesn't help me much. The order books are empty, there is no money, the machines and the building are leased, the company owes money to the bank, your pay is in arrears, the future is grim.”
“I managed to sell all of the unwanted products, the over-runs, the unsold orders, the cancelled orders. It did not bring much, but it paid some of your back pay.”
“I have talked to some of you, we could be more efficient. I have talked to the customers, our quality is too good and our prices are too high. I have talked to the bank, we have a chance to borrow some money if we agree to a plan.”
“And I have a plan. Listen to this!”
“Here is a pile of job termination forms. Each form says basically: I quit and I expect no redundancy money.”
“Pretty hard, eh? Keep listening! When everybody has signed one of these forms the bank will lend the company some money to pay bills, buy raw materials, and pay some wages.”
“That is, enough to start production again. A few of you will then be rehired on lower wages and hopefully the company will produce and deliver at the right price. If everything goes right the company will grow again and take on more work and workers.”
“OK, it's not perfect, there is no guarantee, the wages will be lower, there will never be jobs for all of you. But it is a plan. What do you say?”
The head of the works committee stood up and said that the workers, he meant the committee, needed time to discuss it. His name was not on Mr Church's list for rehiring.
“OK!” said Mr Church. “But I need a decision in 30 minutes. The bank wants an answer by noon. Let me spell out the situation again.”
“This company is bankrupt or soon will be.”
“My plan, call it plan A, means firing everybody and restarting the company with less than a quarter of the workers. The bank will only lend money if everybody first quits, the company is run more efficiently, and I promise to manage the company for at least one year.”
“There is no plan B. The bank will send an administrator to wind up the company this afternoon, it won't take long, there is nothing of value left. You will have no jobs and no money. End of story.”
After ten minutes of loud discussion the head of the works committee stood up “We have decided that we need full employment and proper wages. We need the plan B. We are certain that you, Mr Church, can persuade the bank to give us more money.”
Mr Church winced when he heard the word give – banks don't give you anything other than a calendar at Xmas.
“With the extra money we are certain that we can deliver products at the right price and at high quality and fill the order books.”
“We think that we have a good chance.”
Mr Church said “had” and left.