The naked engineer: Old dogs and new tricks

NE finds innovative ways to avoid falling foul of HR legislation.

Managed to get in early today – just in time for an 11 o’clock coffee and catch-up on the Italian Grand Prix with Jimmy the Greek (Welsh FD). Completely overlooked a 10am strategy session with the chairman, but he hadn’t seemed to notice I wasn’t there so all was well.

A detailed engineering analysis with Jimmy on the finer points of rubber compounds used in F1 tyres rapidly developed into a crossdepartmental debate of the merits of the rubber compounds used by our healthcare division for their new range of fruit flavoured condoms. But our discussion was sadly cut short by Attila the Hun (my formidable PA) yelling through my door “Fraid somebody messed up booking your flight to Spain for the conference”.

The yell had a touch too much glee for my liking – her attitude has definitely slipped a bit since she’d caught me field testing the aforementioned new product range with an intern from shipping a few weeks beforehand. I tried to explain that the rather high reject rate on the new line made field testing vital but PA’s today seem sadly lacking in their understanding of professional commitment.

The shindig in Valencia next week was to submerge me in all the latest news on EU directives in HR – a prospect only just made bearable by the conference being located at a 5* golf resort.

As if called to the opportunity to compound my misery, Janice (HR director) appeared on the scene.

“Bit of an issue with the new acquisition,” she said.

We had completed a deal to acquire Consolidated Retail Airsoft Packaging last month. It was a sound business move – CRAP products being well known in the industry. But the acquisition came with a problem. Age.

“Bloody hell! Will this festering government never stop buggering about with employment law?”

“Seems they anticipated the abolition of compulsory retirement and haven’t retired anyone in a decade,” announces Janice. “They’ve now got at least twelve septuagenarians who don’t really do anything and no-one knows why they’re still there. We’ll have to start a performance review process to retire them and it could take anything up to twelve months to complete”

“Oh for crying out loud!” I exclaim.

“So instead of being able to retire them quietly with a bit of respect, bung ‘em a fake gold Rolex for long service and toast their failing health in the canteen with something fizzy, we’ve now got to fire them for being old and doddery, and take a year to do it.”

“That’ll do wonders for their self-esteem. And we’ll doubtless end up with a dozen Employment Tribunals to fight.”

“That pretty much sums it up” replies Janice.

“Bloody hell! Will this festering government never stop buggering about with employment law?” I ask rhetorically. “You know, I was in China last month. They work eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, have a week off a year and if they so much as think about complaining they get carted off to the company ‘reeducation’ centre, if you get my drift. I mean, how the hell are we supposed to compete with that?”

“So, I’ll start arranging appraisals then shall I?” asks Janice.

“I s’pose you’ll have to,” I mutter disconsolately.

“What’s another fifty grand sacrificed on the altar of ill-conceived, ill-judged, popularist legislation?”

“On the other hand,” I muse, “we could redeploy them blowing up reject condoms from healthcare to use in a new CRAP air-filled, impactresistant packaging product.” Recycling, jobs for the elderly and an innovative new product all in one. Problem solved!