I want to tell you about Terry. I’ll call him Terry, because it isn’t his name.
Terry is a real person and works in my civil service department. He’s been around for God knows how long. I joined more than a decade ago and he was an ‘old lag’ then.
Terry is never late, he never complains, he’s absolutely never off sick. He is easily more than competent and takes each new initiative and quick-stop-turn-around-run-off-in-the-other-direction change in his stride.
Terry has MS. He’s known about it for some time, but over the last few years it really has taken its toll. Like I said, Terry never grumbles.
His place of work is a ‘permanent’ building. This building is in effect a portacabin, sat up on breeze blocks. In the summer it is unbearably hot, in winter it is arctic. In the spring and autumn, rain water comes flowing in through the door from outside. Terry never grumbles whilst others moan and whine. He merely snorts and raises his eyebrows before getting back to work.
At least twice a week he’s on parade for 06:30. Lord knows how he does it, how he can physically get himself out of bed for such an early start is a mystery to me. Lord knows how much sleep he gets the night before. Movement is not easy for him, in order for him to walk more than 5 metres, he has to lean on a colleague’s shoulder and move at a snail’s pace. Terry never grumbles, he merely accepts the cards that life has dealt him and gets on with it.
When other members of staff moan about certain tasks that they don’t want to do, desks which they don’t want to sit at, Terry never grumbles. All he asks for is a few minute’s grace so he can get from one place to another with the assistance of a work-mate. You won’t hear Terry say ‘can’t do that, it’s my back/neck/arm/leg/wrist/ankle’.
When the latest authoritarian and hostile missive designed to demotivate the staff, to make them jump ship, comes through from the managers, Terry just smiles ruefully and shakes his head, he’s seen them come and seen them go.
Terry never has a day off sick. Never. His fear is that his first day off sick will be his last day of work. Although he wouldn’t admit it, Terry loves his job. Terry loves the people he works with. The people he works with love him back.
Terry’s only vice is a sneaky fag, propped up on the railings outside the main entrance. This is against the rules, the department has decreed that any smoking on departmental property is verboten. Even the most ardent of anti-smokers in the team would kick off if someone prevented Terry from having his puff a couple of times a day.
Terry will without doubt leave with a very nice pension, but given his physical condition, one can only wonder how long he’ll benefit from it. He’d probably be better off taking medical retirement to get some use of it, but his job keeps him socially active. When Terry does go, he’d be unable to find a venue suitable for his retirement do, there’d be hundreds wanting to turn out to see him off. He probably wouldn’t have one though, Terry doesn’t like a fuss.
To our management Terry is just another drone, another name on a document.
There’s no moral to this story, no happy or sad ending. I just wanted to put a human face to the grey anonymous people given the ‘civil servant’ tag. As has been clearly documented here I support the cuts, but not at the expense of Terry and those like him. Unfortunately he and his kind will be the first to suffer. Our management, senior national and middle local, will always make sure their army of box ticking, equality observing, diversity valuing, best practice policy making suits will be safe.
They don’t know Terry, they have no contact with him and when they do visit the shop floor all they see are a crowd of drones. They don’t really know what these drones do, they know how valuable their army of box ticking, equality observing, diversity valuing, best practice policy making suits are.
Bring on the cuts, wield the axe, but for the love of God hit the right target. Terry and his colleagues are spread thin enough as it is, and it breaks my heart to see them treated in such a shoddy fashion.
We civil servants are not all officious, unfeeling automatons. Some of us care deeply about the jobs we do, and despite every obstacle put in our way, we try to do it as well as we possibly can. This country can have a civil service of which it can be proud, but I am worried that the rotten flesh will be cut out and kept, whilst the healthy is thrown aside.