Jan 29 2011

Today was not a good day.

Category: homeash @ 1:56 am

When I was growing up, we moved from the Midlands to the North West. Right next to the house was a factory – something pretty alien to me as I’d lived in a small village with a few small estates and a quarry, and little else apart from farmland. Lorries came and went from this Factory, and you could time your watch by the times that the workers left for their butties at lunch. Many people worked there, and it was part of life on Orrell Lane, as my bedroom overlooked the car park & occasionally I could see on to the factory floor when up in my bedroom, playing the guitar.
Then one day someone from the factory did a runner with the takings. Pretty much overnight the whole factory folded, and it collapsed under a stream of media accusations, backstabbings and embezzlement. All of a sudden, several hundred people were out of a job – bearing in mind this was a profitable company which had simply been poorly managed.
I remember feeling gutted for them at the time – things really weren’t going to be the same any more, and it was going to knock the village sideways.

Little did I realise that I was going to be in the middle of something very similar, several years later.

Today we found out the results of our restructure at work. When the Con-Dem coalition came into force, they immediatly stopped several education related projects, including the Building Schools for the Future scheme. Many grants to LEA’s and schools also stopped. The effects of these, plus the knockons from other related items which no had no funding, meant that our management of the centre where I work had to look hard at the projected incomings for the next year. It wasn’t hard to see that things were going to be tight. After a few months of working through different potential solutions, a restructure was decided on which would make the books balance. (Evan though I’m a council worker, our centre is a self-funding “Traded Service”, so we need to make the books balance) Around 25% of staff would be cut, with the majority coming from the job title that I have.
The past few weeks have been tricky. A couple of months ago we put in application forms for our own jobs, and interviews were this week. I was lucky enough to have good friends to bounce ideas off & threw some sample interview questions at me – and with a few nights planning I headed in armed with pages of notes, application forms, person critera and so on, determined to sell myself as best I could. The 20 min interview stretched for 50 mins, unknown to me til I staggered out at the end.
The interviews carried on with the other 17 of us the next day, and we spent the rest of the week wondering when we’d find out – there was a good chance this wasn’t going to be until early Feb. However, our management made their decision in time to get to the county Redeployment panel yesterday, and we got notification of our feeback times yesterday afternoon. Being our Unison rep, I was to be first in at 9am, with the main bulk of the rest of the people starting at 12 am.

I didn’t really sleep much on Wednesday night, and Thursday I hit the gym late, then found half a bottle of wine which helped, but I was still awake for a while with butterflies gnawing at me. Was I in at 9 so I then had 3 hours to find our I had no job & then compose myself before “Supporting” our Union members? The thought had me in a right mess for a good while. I knew I’d missed some key parts and considered myself pretty borderline.
When I was told that I had a position, I was obviously relieved, and my inner terror ebbed away pretty quickly. I couldn’t feel happy though – I knew that many of my friends were going to find out that they no longer had a job. This day was going to be tricky.
I mailed everyone to let them know that I was there to help out – doing what I thought really should be done. I bought a stack of sugary things at lunch to help break the ice a bit & provide, well, I dunno what, but something for everyone.
This afternoon was terrible. Person after person came from the room, either grabbing their coat and walking out, or breaking down. We had tears, we had people at a total loss for words, and I think we had people expecting it. We evan had people who had still got a place struggling to keep it together as they had become aware that their mates had just lost their job.
Several people who went were suprises to everyone, for a variety of reasons. Few people came to me for help, but when they did I tried to help as best I could – but everyone was in such a state that they really couldn’t take in the advice I had to pass on. I guess with such a mindf*ck, people need some time to get their heads back to one piece.
After everyone had been in & we knew where everyone was, I went and spoke with the Management team, and pushed for the “next” set of interviews due to start on Monday (that some of these people were to be interviewed at) to be pushed back to Friday, giving people more chance to ‘Do themselves justice’. I’m really worried that that wouldn’t happen otherwise if it was kept on Monday, and am not sure how many people we’ll see back in the office.
Those without a job were obviously utterly gutted. Those with a job weren’t exactly happy, but were relieved. However, we were all knocked when one of our collegues popped in on an offchance to see if we were going to the pub. He’s been off sick for a while with a cancer that he’s been taking treatment for. We found out today that although it’s not a done deal, things are not looking too good for him. All of a sudden, people started looking at their own position, realising just how lucky they were. Having a job is one thing, having your health is something very differnet indeed.

It all reminds me of a song that I amended the lyrics for a bit, back in the early 90’s when the factory next door closed down. It’s not quite as specific to that time, but the sentiment is definately there.

So, here’s the song “Courage” by New Model Army.

We walk every morning in silence
Past the school on Redwood Lane
Where the lights went out for the very last time
And they never came on again
The spokesman all shred crocodiles tears
In the glory of the News at Ten
But the proudest eyes are long since dry
And they’re never going to cry again

Ch: Dear Friend, I salute your courage and I toast to your health
And I wish you all the luck in the whole wide world
May you never be broken like they say you will

Waking up sudden from a nightmare – you were walking the line in pain
With a shaven head to the slaughterhouse and you never came back again
But she took me in her arms and she held me
Close tight for a minute or two
And we laughed and smiled and closed our eyes
Slept again thinking of you
And the way that it is, the way that it really is
With the money talking and a scapegoat lover
With the painted face of a scolding mother
And I salute your courage and I toast to your health
And I wish you all the luck in the whole wide world
May you never be broken like they say you will be