As fate would have it, I've been asked by the unions to see what I can do about getting the computer support staff an across-the-board salary increase. After lengthy protestations about my unsuitability for the job I'm eventually convinced that I may have something to offer by the impassioned pleas of the union delegate.
The 500 quid up front helped sway me, as did the promise of a full Archer if I can swing more than five per cent.
I decide that the best approach is a full frontal assault against the Boss and the head of IT, so arrange to meet with them both in a secluded meeting room.
"As I'm sure you're aware, I was recently contracted to act as a third party union negotiator," I start.
"No, But you're a contractor - you're not even in the union!" the Boss protests.
"It's a separate contract."
"But you're contracted to us as well. Isn't that a conflict of interests?" the head of IT blurts.
"Only if I were interested in either party - which I'm not. However, I'm sure that it would be of interest to you to know the complaints that have been brought to my attention"
"Complaints? So this isn't about money?"
"Of course not. No, I have a number of complaints that people have brought to my attention which need addressing."
"I'm afraid that the people concerned wish to remain anonymous so as not to risk being singled out for some form of retribution."
"All right then, but what are these complaints?"
"Well, as you know, a few months back there was some discussion about Quantum Computing?"
"Vaguely," the head of IT responds.
"Well, the union members would like some assurances about the safety of this as a technology."
"What do you mean safety exactly?"
"We'd like some assurances that anyone using a Quantum Computer won't be - for instance - thrown into the future somehow."
"Sent into the future - or the past for that matter."
"What're you talking about?"
"The members would like to be assured that they won't suffer the same fate as that guy on Quantum Leap", I explain.
"QUANTUM LEAP WAS A BLOODY TV PROGRAM!" the Boss shouts, "IT WASN'T REAL!"
"Nevertheless, I think the members would like a written assurance."
"This is ridiculous. Quantum Computing is perfectly safe!"
"Yes, they said that about asbestos."
"This isn't F---ing asbestos!" the head of IT shouts.
"Yes. Item 2, the members would like free access to learning materials to further their knowledge in computing."
"We're not stopping them learning more about computing! You're the one putting all the magazines through the shredder as soon as they turn up!"
"Yes...I don't think we should be naming names here, it's just not helpful. Now, I should emphasise that no one here is blaming anyone for the poor state of affairs that these individuals have been subjected to in an almost criminal manner."
"YOU'RE THE ONE DOING IT!"
"Once more, we're not here to name names or apportion blame to the people who've been responsible for allowing this sort of thing to go on unchecked in a manner which has created a hostile workplace environment."
"YOU'RE CREATING THE HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT!"
"Right, well I can see we've reached an impasse on Item 1 and Item 2 so perhaps we'll see if item 3 would be more workable."
"The members would like some assurance that they won't be affected by the radiation from the mobile phone towers on the building."
"There aren't any mobile phone transceivers on the building?" the head of IT says.
"There aren't any now, but there might be some in the future. So the members would like to get a comprehensive company medical plan should any of them suffer ill effects from radiation."
"WHAT BLOODY RADIATION, THERE'S NO TRANSCEIVERS?!"
"Not at the moment, but at some point in the future there might be."
"So what, we'll cross that bridge when we decide to put transceivers up."
"So you admit you're going to install transceivers?"
"I said nothing of the sort!"
"Yes you did, you said WHEN, not IF."
"LOOK, I can't know if the company, at some point in the future, will put up transceivers for cellphones any more than I can tell if they're going to...I don't know..,make the staff all wear company coloured uniforms or something. It might happen, it might not"
"So what you're saying is that the company MAY, at some stage in the future, install cellphone transceivers which will emit possibly harmless radiation onto the staff. When combined with the possibility that Quantum Computing could possibly send someone INTO this harmful environment, I think that we should probably be making this medical plan available right now!"
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT! PEOPLE WON'T BE SENT INTO THE FUTURE AND WE WON'T BE INSTALLING CELLPHONE TRANSCEIVERS!" the head of IT shouts.
"I...think that in this...hostile...environment perhaps a compromise would be the best way forward. Perhaps if management were to...compensate the people most likely to be affected by these changes - in the manner of a token gesture - perhaps the issue would, well, go away."
"So it IS about money," the Boss sighs.
"I think a seven per cent increase across board for the computer support staff would be positively received."
"I don't think so," the head of IT says. "And as for the suggestion that they'd believe any of that nonsense - that's just ludicrous."
"It's not them I'd be worried about - it's the rest of the staff. Once one of two of them start voicing their concerns in the company cafeteria..."
"They'd be out the door so fast their feet wouldn't touch the ground!" the Head snaps.
"And when one of their fellow workers happened to mention that the REAL reason they'd gone is that they'd been sucked into the future and the whole 'firing' thing is just a cover-up..."
"You're serious aren't you?"
"Serious enough to get the support staff to start wearing tinfoil hats..." I say.
"I...I'll give you five per cent."
"Six or nothing"
"I...OK," the head of IT folds. "Six percent it is, and not a penny more!"
"OK, I accept on behalf of my members, six percent plus, say a 10 quid a week clothing allowance."
"What clothing allowance?"
"What - you expect them to pay for the company-coloured uniform out of their own wages?"