Dear Diary – Page 83

The days of “Brenda and Les” are long gone but I do have a souvenir of those times!

Les was totally obsessed with his guitar, such that my (then) wife was interested in learning to play one. We eventually purchased a really nice acoustic (jumbo) Yamaha FG-180 which she “worked at” for a while, but then she lost interest in it. It was quite expensive and so, rather than “wasting” it, I decided to learn to play it. With lots of practice and guidance from Les, I became competent with it albeit at an amateur level.

(When we decided to immigrate to Canada in 1975, we decided that I would come out on my own first and get an income established. One of my two allowed pieces of hand luggage on that flight was the Yamaha FG-180 … which I still have!)


During the Brenda and Les era, we were experiencing some significant changes in our lives. We had planned on a second child, but that was not to be as a result of a miscarriage. Our income was inconsistent with our outgoings such that we were constantly “maneuvering money” to pay off our debts. I discovered that I could earn more as unskilled labor on the shop floor at Perkins than I was getting in the offices there, and so requested a transfer.

The transfer was approved but the shop floor was considered a “closed shop” from a union perspective. I therefore had to join a union. There were only two unions represented and the largest one (probably 90-95% employees in it) was threatening strike action at that time. Going on strike with the drastic reduction in income (to strike pay) was to be avoided at all cost and so I joined the smaller union and started straight into a night shift.

I was bored! During the whole shift, I had nothing to do. My supervisor explained to me that I was surplus to requirements and should be thankful that I will be paid for doing nothing. I wandered around the plant and it was clearly quite common to have nothing to do during a night shift! The washrooms were interesting because most of the stalls were “occupied” with sleeping night-shift workers.

After a few nights of that, I approached my supervisor about getting a transfer to a busier area. This was not an expected request, as it could reflect on his area, so rather impatiently, he brushed my request aside and said that he would get back to me. He did! With an ominous smile, he said that he had made arrangements to have me exchange places with a man in another section.

I was still on a night shift when I started in my new position. My job was to drag cast steel engine blocks along some rollers and, using the resulting momentum, upturn them (stand them on their ends) and push them onto another set of rollers. Using the momentum was a critical factor but sadly, some of the rollers were not turning and so not only did dragging the blocks involve considerable effort, but upending them became quite difficult. By the end of that first night shift, I could hardly stand upright; my lower back, shoulders and arms were complaining bitterly and, when I got home, I literally went upstairs on my hands and knees. A visit to my doctor the following day confirmed a multitude of muscles badly strained and I needed time off work to recuperate.

A couple of days later I went to the Personnel Dept. and asked that they get involved regarding having the rollers replaced. Apparently, they could not get involved as my correct route was to go through my Union representative. Being a very small Union they had limited representatives all of which were on opposite shifts to me. Given the perceived urgency, I went to a representative of the other Union and explained the situation to him with the thought that some of their members would be having a similar problem and it would therefore be in both our interests to resolve it.

They had no interest whatsoever as I had not joined their Union! Given the lack of interest, and the difficulties in getting my own Union involved, I went back to Personnel in total frustration. They advised me that I had two options. One would be to return to work as soon as medically possible; the other one being to leave the Union. Leaving the Union dictated leaving the company as Union membership was mandatory.

I gave them immediate notice of my intention to leave.

17 thoughts on “Dear Diary – Page 83

  1. Very cool about still having the Yamaha.
    Oh your boss was not nice at all by giving you that job. Glad that you didn’t hurt yourself any worse than you did! Unfortunately some companies really don’t care about their employees and Brad says often how Unions anymore only create trouble!

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  2. I have no thoughts on unions, but my Mom, being from the northern part of the US, has some strong opinions. She says you are absolutely right. Unions were a blessing many years ago when there weren’t the laws as we have today to protect laborers. But now they do more harm than good. She also said she has impulsively left jobs when she was young too, so she totally understands.

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  3. Common sense would dictate that the company and union should try to solve both problems — bored nighttime employees and jobs that could seriously hurt employees. But then common sense isn’t all the common, is it?

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    • Hi Kate. I think that companies (like governments) generally grow to a size where everything can become so impersonal that staff simply do their job as they are instructed. They probably have no input and therefore function in automatic mode in order to get paid! Union shops are probably worse in that everybody is tied up in more rules and regulations.

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  4. I once had a job in a factory which made glass lenses. I was a general sweeper-upper. There was a red line around each lens grinding machine. I was not allowed to sweep anywhere past the red lines because it was a different union.

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  5. I’m not a union fan. Here in the States, many unions try to use their muscle to sway politicians to vote their way. They have won many votes, however they are losing their momentum, as people are standing up to the politicians that do this.

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