The working class are agitating for more money. Generally, I have very little sympathy for the working class. If they did any real work, they'd be the middle class. The way Smokehouse is set up is that we have a head office down South where you get decent agencies, good restaurants and a signal on your mobile phone. And we do our manufacturing in unemployment black spots in the North where even a job with us is preferable to no job. This works well as long as contact between North and South is kept to a minimum. Fortunately, the national transport infrastructure helps in this.
The horny-handed sons of toil want an 11% pay rise. We've offered them 11% over 15 years (which we're hoping they don't notice is actually a pay cut). We're also insisting on modernisation - our polite shorthand for culling workers who still use Brylcreem. Naturally, they're talking about strike action. I feel like telling them that me and Bill Peters have been withholding our labour for years and no-one's noticed. In the pre-empowerment days we'd send Bill in to negotiate with the shop stewards; he'd drink them under the table and under the minimum wage. I call that proper management. Our weirdo HR director Giles Renton-Willets thinks a union convenor is someone who does gay marriages.
Sir Marcus's statesmanlike response to the industrial unrest is to announce he needs a pay rise and a new car. I wouldn't mind a pay rise myself. There comes a time when your salary no longer seems attractive if you were to see it in a job ad. My Smokehouse shares are worth less than a barrowful of Reichsmarks, and if it weren't for giving myself the entire department's bonus this year my salary might skip into double figures. Tim Smallwood, our finance director, has asked for a meeting, which is a bit of a surprise. He has the business equivalent of agoraphobia in that he doesn't like to leave his office. (Bill has angoraphobia, which is a fear of women in fluffy jumpers, but that's a long and sordid story.)
Meeting with Smallwood. I thought he was showing me the company figures for Smokehouse - which I never pay much attention to - when it dawned on me that I was looking at Sir Marcus's compensation package. Apparently we pay him as much as 200 factory workers. But then he doesn't get the free safety boots, so it kind of averages out. Smallwood whispered that we can't actually afford to sack him as his severance deal is worth more than the entire profits of the company for the last five years. In effect, Sir Marcus has shrunk the company to a state where it can't afford to keep him and can't afford to ditch him. There's also the fact that his pension pot is bigger than our largest export market. Apparently, Renton-Willets 'negotiated' his package, which probably meant reading his aura rather than the small print. Smallwood said he was getting in a top contracts lawyer to sort everything out.
Contracts lawyer has come up with nifty scheme whereby we give the workers performance-related pay by reducing their pension contributions. In the small print he added that this only applied to workers earning over one million pounds. Which cuts out everybody except Sir Marcus. He signed it looking very smug, which was rather nice as he was agreeing to fund the pay rise for the working class direct from his pension scheme. To show the workers there were no hard feelings, he made them a stirring motivational video so he wouldn't actually have to speak to any of them. I left the office just in time to see an Aston Martin leaving the car park. Waved to what I thought was Sir Marcus and then realised it was the contract lawyer. Still, you know what they say: pay peanuts, get monkeys; pay lawyers, get well and truly rogered.