11 August 2014

Banking on working....

Many, many years ago, I was a fitter on a production line for a manufacturing company and I worked on 'piecework'.

For the unenlightened, basically this meant that I was paid for each measured portion of work that I completed.  Not being particularly greedy, I never booked all the 'achieved' hours each week that I had earned, and consequently 'banked' the remaining balance for future weeks.
The rates for each job were set on the basis of a skilled employee completing a specified task within a specified time, and to a specified level of quality.  

The quality was always verified by an Inspector, who had to countersign the yellow docket for satisfactory completion of the task before you could book it for payment.

Well, of course, some tasks were either easier or more difficult than others.  If it was the first time a task was ever measured, say for a job on a new product line or a product variation, and you happened to be the very first one to undertake it, then you effectively '...set the rate...' for all others to follow.  In these circumstances, it was essential not to complete the job too quickly and alienate your colleagues, or potentially screw yourself in the future !  Not exactly swinging the lead, because you were under observation, but certainly not putting yourself out in quite the same way as you'd do for a previously measured job.

Although I could generally have earned significantly more, there were other reasons for not booking every hour each week, one of which was that I had to get along with other people and if I'd been working for a long period on one specific easier task while consistently booking every single achieved hour and earning a very much higher bonus, then the rate for that particular task may have came under scrutiny and with a consequent threat of reduction from the 'ratefixers', those devilish office wallahs whose job it was to set a 'fair' rate for each task and who were the scourge of the shop floor (though generally nice guys, too).

The 'normalised' input, i.e. booking just as many achieved hours as constituted a 40-hour working week, was known as 1,000% - don't ask me why !   This meant that you received the basic hourly rate for the trade without any bonus. 

Many of the really productive guys I worked with never faltered and could book >2,000% every week whatever the task, and earn very significant bonus money, but I was always happy with doing my bit and only booking 1,600 to 1,800%, saving a bit each week for the future.  Who knows, maybe one day you just wouldn't feel like working so hard or you were absolutely pissed on the Thursday night (the traditional weekday night out) and therefore just wanted to laze around a bit on the Friday morning until the haze cleared....

One day, it was a Thursday afternoon, I was called in by the Works Manager and asked if I'd like to leave the shopfloor and start work as a draughtsman in the offices.  If I accepted, the new job would commence the following Monday.  Of course I jumped at the chance, but I had a problem - I'd over eight weeks of 'banked' time in my locker, and draffies were salaried staff and not subject to the vagaries of shopfloor piecework.

So, when I told my colleagues, the next day I basically had to give away to them all the very valuable countersigned yellow 'piece' dockets I'd previously accrued - eight week's worth !  Although I booked 2,200% that final week - any more would have raised a few eyebrows - they were of no further use to me on a salary.

And so what's the point of this narrative ?

Well, I've had my own company for the last eighteen years, and when the invoices are sent and the bank statements arrive I always do a monthly reconciliation and a future cashflow forecast, i.e. a spreadsheet of exactly what's expected in and what must go out in future to cover the office costs, salaries, capex, NIC, tax, VAT, accountants etc.

And today, I noted that the company has sufficient cash reserves to meet all of of these foreseen expenditures until at least September 2017....  I've been banking work credits again.

So, even if my company never earns another penny after today, and hopefully that's unlikely, we can still maintain our current lifestyle for the next three years, before we'd need to dip into our own personal resources.   How many people working outside the Civil Service can say that ?

I can see that even many years on, the old habits of banking paid work for the future are still with me. 

And this time, I'm not giving any away....

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