Episode 62 – But Their Chains (Part 1)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent …


(THE SCENE: Lunchtime on a typical outer-suburban motorway construction site. The job is nearing completion, the lanes have been marked but are blocked off from traffic by orange and white plastic barricades;, only landscaping, gardening, finishing touches to the earthworks, certification by civil engineers and ribbon-cutting by the transport minister remain to be completed. BOGUE is sitting on a bench outside the site office with his workmates CLIFF, MATTY and JOEL, having his usual lunch of two steak, bacon & cheese pies and a 750mL Ice Break after a hard morning’s work busting his gut pulling levers back and forth on a Bobcat.)

BOGUE: So, where did the new young fella go?

MATTY: Hahaha! Guess!

CLIFF: (not taking his eyes off the Daily Telegraph he’s reading) Lemme guess, I reckon youse sent him down to Bunnings to look for chequered paint.

JOEL: Nup, good guess though.

(TYLER, a skinny sixteen-year-old apprentice on his first day on the job, appears, scratching his head.)

TYLER: Hey, Matty, I went to the tool shed and asked the guy there for the left-handed screwdriver you wanted, but he just looked at me and laughed.

(BOGUE, MATTY and JOEL slap their knees and chortle at the sophisticated practical joke they pulled on TYLER)

MATTY: Naah, mate, we was just havin’ a lend of ya. (reaches into esky under the bench and hands TYLER a can of Coke) Here ya go, mate, here’s yer prezzie for the first day. Take a seat! (nudges BOGUE in his ample abdomen) Oi mate, squish over, make some room for Tyler here.

BOGUE: (moves over) Don’t mind us, mate, we’re just a bunch of jokers around here. So, Tyler, tell us, what makes ya wanna work on the roads?

TYLER: Well, umm, I wasn’t that good at school, I guess. Teachers kept givin’ me shit and stuff. Stuff that fer a joke. Anyway, I went down to Centrelink to get the dole, they made me go to a job agency, and here I am, I guess. I can’t wait, I reckon it’d be awesome to drive them steam roller thingies. And when I get me first pay, I’m gonna go out, get me hair done up like them singers from One Direction and buy some new shirts and get meself a girl!

CLIFF: Just wait until you’ve been doin’ this shit for fifty years, mate. You’ll get sick of drivin’ them steam roller thingies then, believe me!

BOGUE: Buddy, don’t mind Cliff here, he’s just a grumpy old c@#t. Yeah, it’s a pretty cruisy job. Just do what you’re told, turn up for work, know yer shit and you’ll have a job for life, me boy.

JOEL: Yeah, it’s not a bad job. Get to perv on chicks on some jobs walkin’ past in high heels and tight skirts. Always have to give ‘em a bit of a whistle ‘n that. Not these motorway jobs though!

(The SITE MANAGER, a tall, serious middle-aged man in a hard-hat and safety vest worn over a business shirt with rolled-up sleeves, marches out of the screen door of the demountable site office carrying paperwork and walks up to BOGUE and his co-workers)

SITE MANAGER: All right, fellas, I got some news, and I think you’d better listen up.

MATTY: All roit, hit us with it, boss.

SITE MANAGER: Well, there’s no easy way to say this … umm … but …

JOEL: What? Cat gotchyer tongue, chief?

SITE MANAGER: Anyway, as you all know, this motorway project is nearing completion, and … we did tender for the next phase of the project …

BOGUE: Yeah? And?

SITE MANAGER: Well, our tender wasn’t successful. Anyway, we don’t have any other projects going at the moment, we’re up to our eyeballs in debt since our last plant purchase, and … umm …

MATTY: Yeah, well?

SITE MANAGER: Well, we’re in danger of becoming insolvent, and the board of directors took the decision this morning to place the company in voluntary administration. And the administrators have decided to terminate all non-essential positions effective immediately. Now here are the certificates of separation for you to take down to Centrelink …

BOGUE: What? What the fark? What about notice? Look at Tyler here, it’s his first day. He was so rapt to get this job. Why even bother hiring him?

SITE MANAGER: Well, like I said, the decision was only taken this morning, and head office only called me thirty minutes ago …

JOEL: Oh well, at least we get our entitlements and stuff until we find something else. I’ve got five weeks’ annual leave saved up, that’ll tide me over until I find some work with another mob.

SITE MANAGER: Well, umm … actually …

BOGUE: What? So we’re not even getting our entitlements?

SITE MANAGER: Umm … well, as I said, we’re in voluntary administration, and … umm … no. You’re not.

MATTY: What? This is bullshit! I got a house and a car and a pool table to pay off!

JOEL: And I got three kids to feed and a personal loan for me jet-ski! At least give us our entitlements to tide us over … we’ve earnt them!

BOGUE: I’ve got a mortgage and four kids to feed, and maybe another one on the way too! How the hell am I supposed to feed ‘em?

SITE MANAGER: Well, that’s your business, not mine. Now, here are your separation certificates that will make it easier to go on the dole …

BOGUE: (arises from bench, gets his separation certificate, tears it up, screws it into a ball and throws it in the SITE MANAGER’s face) Urrghghgrrughrughtukurrghnt! This is farkin’ bullshit and you know it! You know full well that the dole’s not enough to live on! You don’t give us notice, you don’t give us our unused leave — how the fuck are we supposed to live until we find some other job? We’re entitled to some notice!

SITE MANAGER: No you’re not. Didn’t you read the collective bargaining agreement you signed last year? Look here. (opens up a folder and shows BOGUE the agreement with his signature on it) “14.3. Employment is considered to be at-will and nothing in this Collective Bargaining Agreement may be considered to limit the generality of this Clause.” You signed it. So tough titties.

MATTY: What? But we had to sign it! If we didn’t sign it, then you would have sacked us — and we need to work for a livin’!

SITE MANAGER: Boohoo. Too bad, so sad. That’s your problem, not mine. Look here. (opens his wallet, retrieves a fifty-cent piece and throws it across the site yard) There’s fifty cents, go call someone who cares. (storms back to the site office demountable, where he slams the door shut)

(BOGUE, JOEL, MATTY, CLIFF and TYLER sit there like stunned mullets for a couple of times)

CLIFF: Didn’t I tell youse guys, to join the union while you had the chance?

BOGUE: Cliff. Don’t. Say. A fucking. Word.

JOEL: Yeah, now’s not the time, Cliff.  Now’s not the time … Fark. Farkin’ hell. Fark.

TYLER: Me first day. Me first day. I was so lookin’ forward to gettin’ paid and takin’ some chick out.

MATTY: This is fucking bullshit. So … what do we do now?

TYLER: Can’t we all just get work from some other place?

JOEL: Nup, they’re not hirin’. Nobody’s hirin’ right now. The gov’ment’s stone broke, they’re not spendin’ the money on buildin’ shit like they did a couple of years back.

BOGUE: What do we do … bloody hell, fellas, what do we do?

CLIFF: Well, I got an idea. Here, not too loud, come in closer …

(BOGUE, MATTY, JOEL and TYLER all huddle around CLIFF while he whispers for a minute or so. Afterwards they resume their seats)

CLIFF: So, fellas, you in or not? Yes or no?

TO BE CONTINUED … Next Week! Same Bogue-Time, Same Bogue-Channel!

8 responses to “Episode 62 – But Their Chains (Part 1)

  • Simon - Glasser at Arms

    Robbing a bank or making a porno?

  • Stephen

    Taking the Site Manager hostage like Bogue took the MP hostage?

  • Dr Greenthumb

    A Current Affair.

  • Ash - Keep Ya Head Up

    Gay porn. Please, please, please, pleeeeeeeeeease make it gay porn.

  • RobertL

    Not that I want to be critical, but there’s a lot of motorway projects etc around my part of BrisVegas, and they always finish the landscaping way earlier than I expect. It’s never the last thing they do; they seem to finish it when the rest of the job is still half done.

    And it confirms that I am turning into a miserable old curmudgeon when I instinctively side with Cliff.

  • Edward

    Industrial action. If it’s launched within the notice period of one hour (applicable to at will employment), the workers who are union members have a recourse through their union because they are still technically employees under the definitions of the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1996. What the company has given them is actually notice that they will not be given any further shifts, rather than handed them a fait-accompli of employment which has already been terminated. The separation certificates are intended to force the transition, lead the employees to believe that it is something that has already been done. No mention was made of paying them out in lieu of time, so the one hour of notice still applies. They were given notice that their current shift has been shortened to time of notice plus one hour or balance of remaining hours, and that the roster (a matter of convenience for the employer, lacking legal force) has been discarded, revealing the true nature of the relationship, hire on a shift by shift basis.

    It may have the complexion of a lockout, from the viewpoint of a union lawyer, and may therefore could constitute a prima-facie case under the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Commission. If it becomes a sub-judice matter, the employer is enjoined from taking further action until the matter is ruled upon. And you’d be surprised how fast a lawyer whose entire job is to handle union business can obtain an injunction.

    That’s my guess.

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