WRITTEN BY HAZEL MOORE
Pulling a night shift can get you more than just a double time payment
The cold light of a grey dawn came in through the factory window, high on the wall.
Cath Wesley looked up. “The day begins, ladies,” she said.
Night shifts were unusual at the factory, which produced dolls of kids’ TV characters. A department store chain had predicted high Easter sales, and needed a thousand extra figures.
“Humans shouldn’t be awake at four in the morning,” Libby moaned. “Most accidents happen around now.”
“I didn’t know that,” Cath said.
“In which case, Libby,” called out Karen from her workstation, “watch what you’re doing. I’m not pulling an industrial needle out of your finger!”
“Stop whining – we’re getting double time,” Letitia said, bent over her huge sewing machine.
“My Paul,” Libby said, “he’s asleep in a warm bed, while I’m here putting tiny leather jackets on dollies.”
“From what you’ve said about his snoring, you’re well out of it!” said Cath.
Libby sighed. “Oh look, we’ve run out of the blonde hair. I’ll have to go out in the cold and fetch a pack from stores.”
“I’ll do that,” Cath said. “Where is it?”
“Brunette at the back, blonde at the front,” Libby said. “Just like life!”
Cath was back in ten minutes, rubbing her arms to warm up.
“Glad it’s warm in here,” she said.
“Thanks,” Letitia said. “You’re a doll.”
Nobody laughed; that joke had worn thin long ago
“D’you understand that new phone of yours yet, Barbara?” Cath called.
“Can’t get used to the touch screen,” a woman at a cutting table called back.
“I suppose they were steam driven in your day,” Cath said.
“You’re a cheeky beggar, Cath Wesley!” Barbara said. “I was working in this factory before you were born!”
“Blimey,” Karen said after a bit, “it’s hot in here with the machines going full pelt. Who wants water from the cooler?”
There was a chorus of agreement. In two minutes Karen was back, swearing.
“It’s bust again,” she fumed.
“It’s gone wrong before?” Cath asked.
“More broken than working, that thing,” Karen said.
“I’ll talk to the site team,” Cath said.
At five they trooped off to the staff room for tea, but Cath held Letitia back.
“How are you feeling, Letty?” she asked. The girl’s bump was really showing on her slender frame now. “You look tired. Are you sure you ought to be doing this shift?”
“The money’ll be useful,” Letitia said, reaching to tie back her luxurious afro. “Darren’s putting in extra shifts on the factory trucks ’til the baby comes.”
“Will he take his paternity leave?”
“Two weeks don’t make that much difference,” Letitia said.
“He gets an extra three weeks now. I thought you knew.”
“Does he? On top of what the government gives?”
“Since last year,” Cath said.
“I’ll tell ’im.” Letitia turned to go.
“Look, go home,” Cath said suddenly. “You look exhausted.”
“My shift doesn’t end ’til seven.”
“We’re well ahead. Don’t worry, I’ll sort it with HR.”
At seven, the women hung up their overalls, moaning about the weather.
Cath climbed the stairs at the end of the factory floor and walked into a spacious office, where two men and a smartly-suited woman sat at a mahogany table. One man’s badge read Finance Director, the other Director of Operations, woman’s was Head of HR.
“Ah, Catherine,” the taller man said. “Can I get you a coffee before we start?”
Cath held up a mug of tea. “Don’t worry, Brian. We brewed up downstairs.”
“You’ve been on the floor again, haven’t you?” Brian said, looking over his specs disapprovingly.
“Just one shift,” said Cath.
“A night shift?”
Cath sipped her tea. “If our employees can do a night shift, so can the owner of the company. Now, let’s begin the breakfast meeting. I happen to have a few immediate issues to raise, actually – about working conditions…”