This is an extract from The Grey Cardigan column in December’s Press Gazette. For the full version, see the super, soaraway subs offer.
THE BASTARDS. They’ve only gone and ‘found’ Tommy Cockles.
I’ve been hiding our last remaining staff photographer from the management ever since the ridiculous edict was passed down that we didn’t need to employ snappers any more and that we could make them all redundant and then re-employ them as freelances. It was a disgraceful way to treat loyal employees and the idea that they would continue to work for us with the same passion and professionalism, just because we could starve them into submission, turned my stomach.
So I ‘hid’ Tommy Cockles in the dark recesses of various budgets. He’s been part of the now non-existent training budget, he’s been some very expensive printer cartridges, he’s even been sneaked onto the advertising budget for a few months when no-one was looking. And, when we had a press, I triumphantly managed to masquerade him as ‘rags for the press”.
And in all that time, Tommy has done the business, reliably turning out his eight jobs a day before going home to his mail order Thai bride who poses naked at night for old men with raincoats, squints, and no film in their box Brownies.
Tommy cost me £28k a year, including National Insurance, pension and expenses – which include his notorious ‘reverse mileage’ (‘You know when you’re looking for an address and you drive past it and then have to reverse? Well it all uses petrol, doesn’t it?”)
Divide that by 47 weeks, five days, and eight jobs and you come up with the magnificent fee of £14.89 per job. Using a freelance – even one of the poor starving bastards we’ve sacked – costs me between £50 and £75. So where’s the fucking sense in that?
I take my perfectly sensible argument to our oleaginous MD, the Eminence Grease, in an attempt to secure a reprieve. It’s an impossible mission. Head count is what matters, apparently, not common sense. Welcome to the asylum.
So Tommy has to go, just before Christmas, after a 30-year career in which he’s never turned down a weekend shift, never bottled it at a dodgy door-knock, and never failed to come back with the goods, in focus and on time. Having delivered the bad news, I don’t mind admitting that I feel like fucking topping myself.