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The Floor: 1 | 2  
 

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 to bet."

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 Meeting >>>

Patterson listens to what Yvonne has to say about worker moral.
 
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