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Office Life - Wages

Biography > Hills Electrical > Memories of Work
Wages For Electricians

Electricians terms and conditions were set by an organisation called the JIB who produced a booklet each year giving details of what payrates would be applied that year. The rules on overtime were complex, as were those on holiday pay and expenses. The electricians knew the rules by heart which meant that the office staff needed to as well.

The weekly payroll cycle went like this. By the Monday morning of the week we had to have timesheets from the previous week. The timesheet would show the hours worked, the overtime, travelling time, expenses and the job on which they had worked.

There were warnings on the timesheet that they must be filled in by the individual and countersigned by the foreman. The engineer then signed them off. Every time sheet ever produced was pure fantasy. The hours never reflected what had been worked. It was all a giant self delusion and the fact that we couldn’t impose a better system.

Once the timesheets had been signed off, there was a detailed calculation to be performed. On each time sheet the hours paid, expenses, holiday pay and the like were added up to give a gross pay and expenses. These figures were then entered onto a Kalamazoo payslip, with it’s ledger underneath. You worked out what tax was due using tables produced by the tax office. and then you worked out the national insurance deductable. This information then went on to give you a cash sum that should be paid. You then did a cash analysis showing what was the split of notes required on that payslip.

When I began work calculators were just coming in and were too expensive. So all of the calculations were done in your head or using tables. All of the electricians were given a number which we called a "clock number" . In the past electricians had come into the yard every morning, clocked in using a clock machine and then returned at night to clock out. Even to us that seemed hugely out of date. The lady who did the wages was so familiar with the system that she could give you the name of anyone of the hundred people from the clock number, or vice versa,

For every electrician there were 2 cards as well. The NI card on which you affixed an NI stamp. Every month or so I’d go to the local post office and hand over a cheque for a few thousand pounds and get these stamps. Each stamp might be worth £28, so ripping  them badly was a costly mistake.

We also had to buy JIB holiday stamps - actually called JIB combined benefit cards. These were also expensive. The idea was that every week you’d’ buy a stamp and stick it on the card. Then when the operative took his holiday you’d send off the card and get a cheque back from the JIB. You’d the pay that to the electrician. In practice this was impossible – so 4 times a year we’d send off all the cards, get the money back and pay it out. So the electricians got paid as early as possible but not when they had their holiday. The upshot of this was that many electricians simply didn’t take holidays.

Paying Out Cash

Once all of the calculations had been done, then it was time to order the cash from the bank. We’d phone them on a Thursday morning with a list of the cash we needed broken down.

The payroll when I joined was between 5 and 6K a week for maybe 20 or 25 people. Before I started my mother would draw the cheque, go to the bank and stuff the cash into her handbag. She’d wander around doing a bit of shopping and then go to the office and they would then split it up.

As the turnover went up so did the amount of cash that we needed. My father and I would drive down to the bank, and collect the cash. Over the years it caused a lot of resentment as we’d go to the front of the queue as it was prearranged. The traffic wardens hated us as well – since we parked wth permission on the double yellow lines.

On one occasion the cashier handed over a wrong bag of cash as well as ours. There was 5K extra in this bag. Our accounts staff could just have pocketed it but they chose to let me know and I phoned the bank. The bank manager said:

“Well just bring it back please.”

I told him where to get off and they sent 5 people round to get it back. I suggested that a box of chocolates for our staff would be a nice gesture. The bank, as usual, ignored me.

The cash was counted out to make sure that the total was correct. Then it was divided down into the individual pay packets. All the money should have gone by then but inevitably there was something wrong and we’d have to do it again. The cash was often filthy and smelly. There was a local butcher, Poxons, who banked with the Midland like us and we inevitably got their cash, covered in gore and fat.

Once we had got that far with the process, we all went home for lunch and the cash was hidden in a draw. Looking back I am staggered we had no security at all.
Local electricians would come in to collect the cash in the afternoon or if they were working somewhere else the engineer would take it. Sometimes we posted it to their digs.

On one occasion the engineer had forgotten to take the pay packets. We realised just after he had set off and I went off in hot pursuit.  I got to the M6 intending to overtake him and flash him down, but the motorway was jammed and I had to sit there for hours. Since I didn’t have a phone but all the lorries did, I paid a lorry driver to phone the office and let them know what was happening.

Inevitably there were electricians who used us as a bank and just left their pay packets with us. It wasn’t unusual to have several thousand pounds in uncollected pay packets in the safe. Again we had no theft ever – phew!

Eventually we went through a prolonged process to get the electricians to accept pay into their bank accounts on a weekly basis. By that point we had a computer doing a fair amount of the work. Every week the printer would print out 100 or so bank giro credits and I’d drop them down to the bank who would then process them.
Once this process had been completed the timesheets were then handed across to the job costing clerk who would rewrite the details on to the job costing cards which showed how much the job was costing. There was no double entry and that meant the totals were always suspect and in any case way behind.

Monthly Payroll

Operatives were paid weekly, staff were paid monthly. Once a month I’d do the calculations, raise bank giro credits, print out payslips and pay the money into the bank. As time went on the government introduced more and more complexities into the tax situation with multiple NI rates, different tax treatment of holiday pay, pension contributions at various levels, profit related pay and so on and so on. The system every year became more complex but continued

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