At UBF things moved quickly after I’d been appointed as operations manager. The front office was a shabby affair. Still sporting a thermal paper printing fax, one of my first innovations was a laser printer version from K -Mart! There’d been so many complaints about back orders from 3 months earlier virtually disappearing from the thermal paper they’d been received on.
The operations manager’s office was piled high with the records and bric a brac of an earlier time. Accounts, stocktaking records, fabric samples, dust and the musty odour of an office inhabited for thirty or forty years.
I moved down to the production office way at the back of the plant where the incessant rhythmic pounding of the twelve-tonne stamping machine punched its 1200 reverse barbed needles through the two-foot thick bed of sisal fibre down into the holes of the base platten bed, reducing it to a height of less than one inch!
Myself and the recently appointed plant manager Pierre, were new. He recently from South Africa with scant awareness of Australian industrial relations. The despatch clerk Tony sat opposite from Kerrie’s desk. I’d taken over his desk while he was on leave after being demoted from plant manager to supervisor.
The joint was filthy.
I wondered where to start. The despatch clerk and Pierre seemed to have the right calibre to turn the place around. I took on the unions, the TFCUA [Textile Footwear and Clothing Union of Australia their enterprise bargain. Just before arriving mismanagement of their log resulted in a previously non-union shop transforming into 90% union coverage. Speaking directly to the crew I could see they were the right calibre to improve their take-home pay faster than a union imposed enterprise bargain. Most of them had been in the industry for twenty plus years. The other labourers on the floor were the right calibre too.
I wondered about Kerrie though. He was on leave when I arrived. He’d been there 30 something years, and I was told ran the place as his fiefdom. Doling out overtime to favourites, installing his wife as foreman of the sewing shop.
I squashed my laptop into the detritus on his large wooden desk. It was an oak Palladia work desk, God knows where from. On either side, a draw over a deeper larger file draw. Across the centre a two-foot-wide miscellaneous double-handled draw. I cleared a space on the scribbled over blotting-pad. It’d been years since ink had been blotted there, but pencil and biro words, figures and unknown sketches abounded. I emptied the contents of the left and right top draws onto the cleared blotter. Just about a whole stationery cupboard full of pens, paper clips, markers, matchboxes, lolly papers, rubber bands, buttons, betting slips, receipts, screwdrivers, pins, pencils, erasers, dirt, pliers, wrenches, pipe fittings and chocolate, covered the space. I kept what I needed and binned the rest. Blotter cleared.
However, for the few files I needed, the top draws wouldn’t be sufficient space.
I reached down to my left to pull out the larger draw. It was stubborn.
I pulled harder, eventually using both hands to jiggle it free. It wasn’t full. Inside was a plastic shopping bag, it’s top folded into its centre. I reached in to lift then lay it on the blotter.
“Fuck, what the hell is this!” I exclaimed as the contents spilled out all over the blotter. Tony couldn’t contain himself as I sorted and arranged the contents before me. Small to large, long and short, live to dud. Pierre looked on. He knew what I’d found. Live ammunition from which Kerrie extracted the gunpowder to make shotgun rounds. There was every size from .22 mm to 25 mm! Live!
I realised the calibre of the man I was dealing with.
When he returned later in the month, I sacked him.
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