Our favourite supervisor
One of the installation team supervisors, Gordon, had been inherited by Chubb when they bought Rely-A-Bell and Burgot to form the company Chubb Alarms. Gordon was not a liked person, no one knew him socially, he never went for a drink with anyone from work, he managed to always be absent if anyone ever needed help, yet he would make a special effort and go out of his way should a warning or disciplinary action be deemed necessary.
Gordon, it could be said, was always just a step away from being dismissed, however on dozens of occasions, just when the management believed they had him cornered and this time they would be rid of him, he would wriggle out of the issue, he was the ultimate Teflon employee, disliked by all yet still in post after 25+ years, nothing could be made to stick to him.
We have already seen the story of an apprentice, tied up in the equipment store on site at Burton’s being given a written warning by Gordon, once again this act had simply added to the hatred we all felt for him.
As part of an apprentices training, it was required that approximately 3 days a month were spent in the stores assisting with building the orders and packing the van for delivery to site. Of course, we were always asked to make tea several times a day, and because Gordon lived In his office, it was incumbent that I made him a cup as well. I used to go out of my way to visit joke shops, I always purchased laxative tea bags especially for those days when I made Gordon tea.
He did once comment that he liked the way I made tea as it tasted different to when anyone (not himself as he never made tea in case he had to make it for others as well) else made it. I just chuckled as I knew why.
On one occasion, myself, Martin, and Clancy worked for several weeks including weekends to install the alarm systems for the Grattan catalogue storage and distribution centres at three locations in Bradford. These sites were massive and took a lot of hard work to install including working weekends.
On one Sunday, Martin, myself and Clancy were sat on the grass outside on a glorious day having a lunch break whilst eating our sandwiches and drinking a bottle of beer, we were only there for half an hour, and had not noticed Gordon drive past in his company car.
When we received our pay packet the following Thursday, all hours at double time on Sunday had been deducted from our pay. Clancy and Martin immediately requested a meeting with Gordon, who simply advised them they were lucky to still be in their jobs after he had witnessed them sunning themselves, drinking beer then claiming double time, no consideration for the fact we were entitled to a lunch break was given.
Once again Gordon had endeared himself to the engineers he supervised, but it did not end there, when all three sites were complete, the supervisors all turned up with some beer to celebrate the completion of a long and arduous project, it was six o’clock in the evening when they arrived but we did not mind staying back in our own time to accept the gratitude for a job well done.
Gordon did not stop for beer. He disappeared for 20 minutes, then came back and asked me to look at something with him, we went together to a section of a dozen small van loading bay shutter doors, these were approximately seven feet tall and all twelve had been fitted with heavy duty contacts.
Gordon asked if I had worked on any of these doors and I replied yes I had completed four of the twelve, Gordon had a page out of the Chubb installation handbook which he showed me, it detailed how the conduit should be installed on roller shutter doors and the drawing in the book showed three saddles on the conduit, he pointed out that the installation I had worked on only had two saddles and was not therefore up to company standards.
Gordon gave me a written warning he had brought with him for failure to install to standards. He did not mention this to the other engineers who had installed the other eight in an identical fashion, he cut me no slack for being an apprentice copying the work of my peers, he ruined the celebration for me that evening.
The following week, I was working with Clancy again and he asked me why I had left the celebration without speaking to anyone, when he discovered Gordon’s actions, he was visibly enraged, he opened his own copy of the Chubb installation manual and pointed to the drawing that Gordon had used showing three saddles on the conduit, he said, typically these doors are ten to fifteen feet tall and will require three or even more saddles, however the doors in question were only seven feet tall so in his opinion only required two.
Later that week Clancy and Martin went to see Gordon, but he could not be persuaded either to cancel my warning or to issue warnings to them for the same issue, maybe he knew that the union would be involved immediately if he did that.
Chubb Alarms, as well as sending apprentices to college to study City & Guilds on day release, also had internal examinations for grade 4, grade 3, grade 2 and grade 1 engineers. Once passed an engineer’s pay would increase accordingly. As I spent some time in the stores and training room (I was expected to attend every training session at any engineering level) I sat the grade 4 exam attaining 98% and the grade 3 exam attaining 95% but was classed as an apprentice so no salary increase was applied.
Eventually I was forced to write to Gordon to advise him that I had passed City & Guilds plus the grade 4 and grade 3 internal exams and that my 21st birthday was in six weeks.
Ironic really as I had been sent to work with two new engineers for approximately sixteen months previously to train them how to install systems, one of which had been a bus driver prior to starting work with the company.
Around this time, Gordon (and another supervisor at a different branch) was promoted, he would now be a senior supervisor over the installation supervisor and the service supervisor, and a new supervisor was appointed to fill his old post.
As befitting a senior position Gordon would get a new car, this duly arrived two weeks later and was a MK3 1.3L Cortina in beige with brown interior. Having pulled it into the stores, Gordon spent the whole day fawning over his new car when he discovered a used condom tucked down the back seat. Gordon being Gordon could not accept this, so his written complaint resulted in the delivery driver losing his job. I related the story to Clancy on our next installation together, he thought that at least someone had made good use of the car, unlike Gordon.
Just four months later, I arrived at the stores and Gordon’s car was being taken away on a trailer, Gordon was not about so I asked the obvious questions. It turns out that senior management had created the supervising supervisor role deliberately to get rid of Gordon (and another I never met from another region), they had promoted him into a role they could make redundant after six months. In the industry, you could not work your notice, so Gordon had left the same day and his car collected a few days later. I was to help Clancy that day and could hardly wait to tell him this news. We went to the pub and got quite drunk; it was one of the best days of our lives.
The story of Gordon did not quite end there, some six years later I started my own company with Peter, as we were both ex Chubb engineers, we knew each other well and it seemed like a logical step.
Peter and I had bumped into Gordon at the trade counter of the local supplier in Leeds several times. On one such occasion, I was working away from home on a major project and Peter needed engineers to help install the work he was selling. He asked Gordon if he would like some sub contract work, and Gordon accepted, Peter had thought that I could have a last laugh and make Gordon’s life difficult when I returned. At the time Gordon did not know I was part of the company.
However, Peter had cause to help Gordon complete an installation, he found that Gordon’s work was so shoddy that he had to fire him on the spot, he had installed the external sounder with a single six inch nail, cracking the polycarbonate case, damaging the render on the building and not even getting the unit straight on the wall. Ironic for someone who could quote the Chubb installation manual word for word and expect every engineer to stick to the letter.
See also, Christmas party pooper.