There’s a Tannoy system in our office. It’s very rarely used. Most people just shout when they want to get our attention. The people with the loudest voices tend to gravitate towards the jobs where the most shouting is required.
Pretty well the only person who uses the Tannoy is the manager. He doesn’t have a very loud voice and doesn’t play a significant role in the daily life of the office. Usually he is hiding behind his computer in his little office, keeping out of everyone’s way. So when the speakers crackle, and an uncomfortable voice starts to mumble into the microphone, we always know it’s the manager, about to announce something out of the ordinary. ‘Hello everybody. Can everyone hear me out there?’
Peals of laughter from the shop floor. He has the air of a secondary school teacher addressing a class of hyperactive teenagers.
‘OK, this is just to say that your union rep is here to talk to you about the agreement, and that if you want to meet him in the recreation room you can take the time from your break.’
There’s a sudden eruption of noise. Pardon? Did he say we were to take the time from our break? This is the most important agreement between the Royal Mail and its staff for the last ten years. It contains the blueprint for our future for the next three years at least. It’s written in such dense and convoluted language that hardly anyone has a clear idea of what it’s supposed to mean. We have our union rep here to explain it to us. And they want us to go without our lunch, to pay for this in our own time, and to squeeze a multitude of questions from up to fifty delivery staff into the 20 minutes that are available to us in our break time.
That’s the Royal Mail for you: cheapskate and penny pinching on every level. The company we work for can’t even afford to allow us to take a little time to ask some of the questions and to get some of the answers that will help us to make an informed decision about our future.
The agreement itself states that it intends to foster a ‘culture of mutual interest between managers, union and employees’, so it doesn’t bode well for the future that, even before the agreement is implemented, the manager’s need to squeeze every minute out of our working day takes precedence over our need to know what is going on.
Needless to say, no one went to the recreation room. Most of our questions had already been answered by that announcement.