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  • Writer's picturePeter Smith

WEDNESDAY 1st DECEMBER 1999: The Human Face of Capitalism

I am at the SDC in Cheadle to see how the closure process and the handling of redundancies are going. I sit in on an interview between our HR people and a married couple who both work at the SDC. They are really open, straightforward people, close to retirement. They seem very happy with their early pension and don't intend to look for other jobs, although I have to say we would struggle to survive on the amount they will receive. I guess it's all what you are used to.

A Union representative sits in on the meeting - I am very impressed by how he and our HR lady handle the whole process, professionally and sensitively. HR have generally been very good, and the HR manager has spent a lot of time up at Cheadle, which has really helped the handling of the closure. The centre manager is also good with people; at times like these not being a macho manager is a distinct advantage.

I walk round the warehouse- the only negative comment I get from staff is "you'll never empty this place by the end of the year" - which of course is our plan. We have to get all the stock out and to our suppliers so they can take over the delivery to our branches and offices. It does look like a lot of stuff to move, but my manager assures me it will be done.... Two forklift truck drivers tell me that they have no hard feelings about the closure. NatWest has provided them with a very good standard of living for a long time, by which they mean currently about £15,000 a year. I feel rather humble, somewhat ashamed that I sometimes worry about how the Smith family would survive on, say, as little as £60K a year.

I am also still a little troubled by certain aspects of this whole process; the raw edge of capitalism I suppose. NW defence documents boasting of how many redundancies we will implement do actually translate to real guys like him, a 50-year-old hard working truck drivers, being put out of work. Having said that, the economy is very buoyant, and B the vast majority will not find it too difficult to get something else. I hope he is right.

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