True Story No5


A non-computer error!

Some time in the early-eighties people were being weeded out for voluntary redundancy.

An old chap, whom most people had seen around for as long as they could remember, disappeared from his desk one day.

When, later, he made an appearance he came over to see me. "Allan", he said in an unhappy tone "I got a phone call before asking me to pop down to personnel" when I got there they said I was leaving tomorrow and would I sign some papers. "I didn't say anything because I was a bit confused and upset, can you ask them what's going on?"

It turned out he had been to see Personnel three months previously when they'd asked him if he wanted to take voluntary redundancy and they said he'd agreed.

It transpired the old chap was a bit deaf and hadn't grasped the import of the question and seemingly had nodded and said yes.

Later, he said he remembered something of the discussion but he'd thought they were asking him about taking his summer holiday a bit early and he had said, "yes I don't mind".

"Anyway", I was informed by the Personnel Manager, on hearing the explanation,"it was a bit late to retract now as he'd worked his 3-months notice".

While I was in the Personnel Manger's office I enquired if Bill's company records were available as I didn't know much about him.

A dusty old file was handed over and inside was a series of copies of memos etc. One sheet of paper, yellow with age set out Bill's terms and conditions of employment. It was dated 1933, and gave his age as 14, and was a copy of a pro-forma offer of employment with boxes filled in with copperplate writing. It wasn't his first job either, I noticed from attached references he'd already had two others.

I made notes and set about writing up a leaving speech for the old chap.

When I checked some details with him a bit later he said he didn't really mind leaving but he'd rather wanted to complete 50 years service and this year made only 49. It was then 1982.

"What about the pay you started on", I said, "11/6d a day, that's not much!"

"That was 11/6d a week!", he replied, "the boss probably wasn't even on 11/6d a day."

I recalled that the paper had "DAY" ringed and not "WEEK", but I checked later.

It WAS 11/6d per day and what's more it specified his working week to be "6 days" including Saturday.

I made up a simple formula on my computer (pretty rare in those days.. not a PC but a DecMate with Lotus 123). I put in the 49 years of service and a reasonable rate of pay increase per year together with some annual inflation to bring his pay into line with what he was now earning. The result was that the Company owed him about £920,000 back pay with interest!

When I brought up the matter in the leaving-do speech the Personnel chap, who'd turned up, just laughed and wandered off.


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