Entering the pub, one finds the noise almost unbearable. But in the adjacent room, three company representatives found enough space to retreat into and stand in a circle, each with a glass of the amber fluid in one hand.
They had just met a few minutes earlier, on the way in and had recognised each other as fellow company representatives and therefore a kind of bond, a recognition of rank and status in the world of commerce had quickly been established.
Fred wore a dark blue suit with a waistcoat to match and had, out of habit, his clipboard in one hand and a ballpoint pen sticking out of his small pocket that had originally been designed for a handkerchief.
Charlie was the chubby one and had the mannerism of an easy-going sales representative. Only his eyes betray his alertness and knowledge of business practices and types of human beings.
Brian, who wore a tweedy sports jacket with leather patches at the elbows, gave the appearance of the architect or similar intellectual, he would normally call on.
For some reason, the conversation soon turned to the subject managing directors and, encouraged by the room’s open fireplace and the warm and cosy atmosphere, they opened up and now have a lot to say!
Charlie: ‘My managing director is a real shifty one, he keeps promising me a pay rise year after year but it never eventuates. Who knows, he may better his own income at my expense.
Every year, he takes his family of five to Tasmania for twelve days. Once there, he meets with customers and business contacts for two days, which mean extensive lunches and one or two casual chats, mainly about how good he is personally and how well he is leading his company.
The rest of ten days are spent with his family with no expenses spared!
Upon his return to his office, he puts it through the books as having worked for ten days and only two days holidays. He can do that and get away with it as he is the managing director – there is nobody above him in this country!
His overseas principals trust him and leave everything to him, as long as everything has been booked properly, accounting-wise, no questions are being asked of him.
Charlie appears to be really worked-up about this and takes a disgusted sip from his brew. Obviously, being a conscientiously working company representative, he can only shudder at this going-on of his top superior.
Brian and Fred suddenly had flushed faces and nodded at him in sympathy.
After one more gulp of beer Brian commiserated: ‘I can relate to every word you said! Why, my managing director goes to a car dealer and says ‘I am in the market for seven new company cars. All station wagons, with cruise control and all the other extras. If you give me ten thousand dollars in cash, unmarked, in an envelope and delivered to a certain address, I sign the deal with you!’
And then he adds a punch-line, ‘I change my company’s fleet every two years and the number of cars I need are getting more as my company is growing.’
He gets away with that because he is a managing director! The last two words were uttered with a raised voice and in an expression of utter disgust.’
Again, a long draw from his glass seems to calm him down but his raised left hand indicated that he had something else to add. Patiently, Fred and Charlie nodded at him understandingly.
Thus Brian continued: ‘He sacked a representative in Perth for drinking during working hours when, in fact, he was drinking with him! It was on one of his so-called inspection trips where he’s always invited old Dave to a pub for a long discussion about business but in fact it has always been a long and heavy drinking session!
And boy, can he drink! He is so fast in this that only after a few minutes his face always turns red like a stop sign…..
‘How is this possible?’ Fred and Charlie interjected. Whilst they believe Brian, of course, the reality of this was difficult to comprehend.
Brian shrugged his shoulders. ‘He asked for the car keys and gave him a lift to the nearest taxi stand. There, poor Dave had to rummage around the car for his belongings and store them into this taxi. His former boss then drove off, totally soused – but nothing ever happens to these creatures.
‘How can that be?’ Fred thought aloud. ’By law, anybody, who gets sacked on- the-spot, must be paid off instantly. Did he give the man a cheque?’
‘No he didn’t! The payment arrived much later by mail, right before the court case.’
‘That cannot be! That is against the law’
‘He is the managing director; he can do as he pleases. There was this industrial court case, of course, but there he spoke, with his air of born-to-rule and stentorian voice, he was instantly believed by the magistrate. Naturally, the employee did not have the same eloquence and had a deflated attitude right from the start of the court case……..’
‘Bloddy ‘ell!’ Charlie could only utter. ‘I know what these people are up to, but I’ve never heard anything like that. Myself, I’ve been to the Department of Labour and Industry twice with previous companies, trying to lodge a complaint about a whole string of law-breaking but did not get anywhere. Firstly, I had to wait for two hours because the room was full of people who had something to report, then a young man obediently noted everything I said down on a form. When finished, he looked at my itemised list and assured me that it will take at least six months before they can deal with it as they have such a big workload.
Aw, forget it,’ I replied. ‘I won’t be with the company by then!’ Then I walked out. It is really hopeless to buck the system. After all, a boss is a boss is a boss…..’
Fred seemed to get visibly depressed, listening to all this. But he, too, was no stranger to the machinations of heads of companies. Everybody turned expectantly to him for his contribution.
But he looked upwards with darting eyes as if having difficulties about where to start.
Finally, his words started to flow: ‘My boss, every now and then, declares a container load of goods he receives from overseas as damaged through transport and therefore unsalable. This can happen, of course, when you receive a lot of containers into the warehouse and they have undergone an extensive journey, that is half around the world.
So he claims compensation from his company’s insurance and, with that money, sends-off an order for a replacement from his European supplier.
The insurance company takes away the container with the supposedly damaged goods and puts it in a public auction for disposal at a fraction of their real worth.
At the time of auction, my managing director appears there and, as a private person, manages to succeed in his bidding. Now the container with the immaculate goods belong to him privately and he has it taken away and disperses it at an attractive price through his contacts in the trade. With an enormous profit to him personally, of course.
He does this quite regularly and with the proceeds buys house as a nest egg. Nobody knows about this and he known in his state as a company director, a family man and citizen in good standing!’
Everybody is now shaking their head and staring sadly at their now empty glass. Fred feeling that it is his shout, collects them and leaves to return soon with full glasses of glowing amber fluid with the foam hanging tenaciously over the rim of the glasses.
‘Yes,’ Fred utters slowly, as if speaking to himself’ We have a warehouse with a fork lift that is diesel-driven! In a confined space! The warehouse worker has to keep front and backdoor open to prevent himself from fainting’.
Four eyes are staring at him, wide and in disbelieve.
‘There is no shower for the store man despite what the law says, no working clothes, no kitchen facilities – why, he had to buy his own pie warmer and a plastic chair to sit down.
And the product samples the company gets from the overseas manufacturer and the discontinued items the managing director gives to his son, who has a retail shop that sells them in addition to the normal line of goods. Of course, that never goes through the books and there is easily $ 80 000.—income from them the government does not know about.’
Charlie, who has just swallowed more of his tasty substance in his glass, finds time to remark:’ They try to crack down on black cash – theoretically, everything has to go through the books. Wage earners like you and I cannot get away with anything. But such a managing director with their natural cunning get away with their schemes. And society and the law seems to accord them a superior position and, if queried, a monopoly of truth!
The conversation ceases and the quiet in the little room becomes oppressive as everybody ponders this last sentence. Even the sipping has stopped and is being replaced by sad nodding of people in-the-know!