The rain of the last few days in Kimberley has been most welcome, as have the cool temperatures. It is certain that while many people (and animals) were enjoying the rain, others were not, particularly those whose homes were not built to withstand rain other than a passing shower.
While driving around – I am good at that – I noticed that there were very few municipal workers working in the rain. I do not blame them, and the few I did see were all huddled together under a tree at the municipal complex.
This is probably because they did not have raincoats.
Raincoats are extremely important as it enables workers, quite used to toiling away in the sun, the opportunity to continue working in what may well be described as sublime conditions.
Which brings to mind another story from my past.
In the late 1980s, early 1990s, I had the pleasure of working as the manager of the Kimberley Golf Club. It was most enjoyable but did require a bit of work, which was fine. It was an unsettling period throughout the country and times were a-changing rather rapidly.
One of the changes was that the masses became politicised more than ever before, and this was implemented through the various trade unions gaining thousands of new members.
This of course included all the course and club workers at the golf club who seriously enjoyed taking time off to attend the, oh so many meetings. I had no problems with the trade unions or the trade union movement, after all, I had been the printer’s union representative at the Umtali Post and the Diamond Fields Advertiser.
Structures at the golf club had been organised, and all was going very well although I may add that the workers had not been too keen initially with the monthly union deductions. There is no doubt that they had complained, as even members of the print union had complained about their deductions in my time.
I am waffling a bit, so it’s time to get to the crux of this story.
It had rained for some days in Kimberley during April 1991 and on my regular inspections around the golf course it was noticeable that the workers were sheltering out of the rain, which was fine as it was only hard core golfers that played in such conditions anyway.
The agreement with the worker’s union was that regular meetings would be held, but only with the recognised shop steward and one other, the time to be arranged beforehand. So it was quite a surprise to see the entire work force standing outside the office the one rainy day, naturally under the roofed passageway, all wishing to speak to me.
As per agreement, their shop steward and one other eventually had their meeting with me, the rest standing outside the office. It is possible that they wished to get the benefits of the shop steward (and one other) during meetings as there would always be coffee and a small plate of sandwiches.
After the initial pleasantries, the shop steward came to the point. The work force demanded – unions always demand, not request, remember – that they be issued with raincoats. It was their only demand.
I agreed with them and asked them to get me the measurements of the personnel and I guaranteed that they would have raincoats within 24 hours of receiving said measurements and numbers therefore. I think they were quite surprised that I agreed. Times were tough for golf clubs then, as they are now.
While they recovered from the surprise agreement, I also advised them that since the golf club was going to get them raincoats, they would then have to work in the rain. After all, that must be the reason they wanted the raincoats. I was very pleased that they were showing such keenness to work when it rained.
They were quite shocked at my suggestion, and requested an immediate meeting with their fellow unionists who were still outside waiting patiently. I said it was quite fine, they can have their meeting.
The meeting did not last long and when the shop steward (and one other) returned into my office the workers had already dispersed.
I politely enquired as to the outcome of their meeting.
The shop steward (and one other) were quiet for a short time, and then the steward spoke.
It was unanimous, he said – the workers had withdrawn their demand. They did not want raincoats any more. They were quite happy to carry on working without the raincoats.
It was a good day – the rain carried on falling, and the golf course workers remained dry in the workshop.
Story by Steve Lunderstedt
Photo Credit: Tumelo Mosikare