Thursday, 28 October 2010
His name was R*y. And right from the off, you could see that he wanted a fight. Little did it matter to him the actual outcome of the process about which the meeting was taking place; little did he really - truthfully - care about the welfare and well-being of those he was there to represent (I know this to be a fact because he had never met them prior to this meeting, though they had been in limbo for years, and paying their subs dutifully every month, without so much as a phone call or visit. I may be wet behind the ears, but I do feel that this - in itself - is not right) The one thing, the only thing, on his agenda was scoring points against those ranged across the table from him. It was clear that this was a game in which the two opposing parties were well rehearsed. A dance, if you will, to the age-old beat of workers and bosses, employed and employer. Neither side (and curiously, though an employer at this meeting, I was not directly involved in the scrap. My participation was almost incidental) particularly covered themselves in glory.
There was a tension in the air from the off, and at last, with some dread, I prepared to speak. The aggression was palpable and astonishing, stemming from nowhere. R*y pounced on the most innocuous comment as if it were a declaration of war. And let me assure you that every statement I made was genuinely innocuous, because there was nothing in our plans which was intended to have a negative impact on any of the people involved. I promise you that. And yet... R*y fixed me with his gimlet eyes and sneered his questions at me:
"Opportunities for development?" he barked, "Like what?"
"Like a new Supervisor post we'll be advertising," I said
"Well... We're a big department... There could be plenty of opportunities for those who are interested..."
At this point, my boss interjected, pointing out that there were many areas in which we - as a department - worked, and anyone would be considered on merit if they wished to seek advancement. I had been expecting some potential clashes, but was dumbfounded to be attacked on this one. It was a true statement, and did indeed provide some potential benefits to the staff in question. Why was R*y making such an issue out of it? I never did find out. By some twists and turns of employee relations and rules on Union representation, he was effectively taken out of the equation after the meeting, though he did ring me once. I did not return his call.
As we move into the Coalition future, of frightened public sector workers, huddled like timid prey animals at grey, rain-lashed bus stops; of Housing Benefit claimants boarding buses to their B&Bs in Shoeburyness, we can only begin to imagine how many meetings R*y will be present at. I wish him luck.