Patterson Gets a Wake-Up Call
Anticipating the atmosphere in the factory, Patterson says, "Staffordshire
people are quiet, very kind, very welcoming people, and I think
they're fantastic." Under the shop floor's fluorescent glare,
he discovers another side to the working class.
Patterson tries to charm Julie, one of the 65 cupmakers whose jobs
he will eventually replace with robots. He gets a chilly reception.
"You sure go at it," Patterson says of Julie's skill.
"You have to, don't you?" Julie responds. "They wouldn't
keep us in a job else ... making you your profits. At the end of
the day, we're just a number to you."
Speaking of numbers, the robots keep breaking cups and dropping
handles. They are only operating at 10 percent efficiency.
Patterson shows off his new toy. Clearly oblivious to the irony
of the moment, he unwittingly enthuses, "Pretty classy piece
of equipment, isn't it?"
Julie gazes vacantly at the machine brought in to take over her
job and manages a disinterested reply: "Yeah."
Patterson checks in with Chris, the technician trying to correct
the problems with the robots. A heat release machine, designed to
stamp designs onto plates, keeps smashing product. This robot is
supposed to replace 45 decorator jobs.
The inefficient robots have been on the floor a year-and-a-half
and still aren't operating correctly. Patterson asks Chris how long
it will take to get them up to "reasonable output."
"Ah, you're putting me on the spot," Chris says.
"Well, if you were a betting man ... " Patterson urges.
The frustrated technician replies, "There's no way I'm going
At Wedgwood, employees are rated according to a points system. The
more points a worker has, the more likely they are to be asked to
leave. But many of the staff believe that legitimate sick leave
is being counted against them in the system. One worker with a kidney
infection returned to the assembly line earlier than her doctor
ordered out of fear of termination.
Patterson is beginning to come to his senses, and orders the points
system to be clarified. "The acid test for me is the one of
common sense," he explains. "If it offends common sense,
then it is usually wrong and in this case, what I've been told offends
common sense, so we've got to change it."
Patterson's not winning many friends on the floor, but he's starting
to get a better idea of what it's like. Decorator Yvonne has seen
40 of her co-workers fired. When she speaks her mind, it rattles
the top boss. But he asked for it, wondering what the workers think
of the top brass.
Yvonne answers: "People on the shop floor feel that people
like yourself are all about profits -- less people, more machines,
more profits. They just feel as though they're not worth anything
anymore. Why bother when your job's going to be taken over by a
machine anyway? It just feels as though you drive off in your BMWs
and that's it ..."
"We don't care?" the CEO asks.
"You don't care."
He can live in a fantasy no more -- Patterson finally realizes morale
is a real concern he must address. Patterson is visibly shaken and
says, "I've had enough." The next day, he invites 20 workers
to air their complaints in the first of a series of regular meetings.
Next: Results - Patterson Hosts a Grievance