The Factory Girls – Episode 09

“Close us down!” Carol gaped at the senior executive in horror. “What do you mean, close us down?”Mr Fanshaw smiled awkwardly at her.“I think you know what I mean, Mrs Jenkins.”“You mean you’re going to stop production. Switch off all the machines and send the girls home. Is that it?”“Not quite.”Helen and Brenda, whose heads had been locked downwards, both looked hopefully up but Mr Fanshaw just coughed and looked to his colleagues from Head Office, Mr Wing and Mr Smythson.“We need the machines,” Mr Wing admitted.That did it for Carol.“The machines?” she screeched. “Oh, fantastic. Thank heavens for that! At least the machines will be safe.”Frank put out a hand.“Carol, sarcasm will get you nowhere at this stage.”“Really, Frank? So what will begging? Because I will, if that’s what it takes!”“That won’t be necessary, thank you, Mrs Jenkins.” Mr Smythson’s voice was calculatedly calm. “We don’t like this any more than you.”“Is that right? This is hardly going to make a big difference to your life, is it? You’re not the one who’ll have to meet all the families you did out of a livelihood every time you walk down the street! You won’t have to go home and tell your wife that you’ve lost your job and your kids that Christmas is cancelled this year . . .”Carol heard her own words as if from afar, and knew she sounded hysterical, but she was mad. Spitting mad. They had worked so hard to welcome these men, and for this!“Ina was cooking until gone midnight for you three!” “And delicious it was, too.”“Why make us go through all that, if you knew what you were going to do to us?”“We didn’t know for sure, not until we’d seen the place.”“And now you have seen it, you hate it!” Carol felt numb suddenly. Her eyes swam and through the haze she was aware of first Helen and then Brenda standing up and stepping either side of her like bodyguards. She was grateful for them.“We don’t hate it,” Mr Fanshaw assured her. “Cardill’s is a wonderful place, but it’s intrinsically inefficient. Only a miracle worker could have kept the production rates as high as you have all these years.”“We can continue to do so,” Helen said stoutly.“I’m sure you can, but we need more. Retailers are squeezing every last penny out of us and we can’t afford eccentricity. We have a slick, modern factory unit nearby where the machines will be able to function far more efficiently.”“Not without the girls.”“Which is why we’re offering jobs to every one of them.”“You’re offering our girls jobs! Why didn’t you say so?” Carol snatched at this ray of hope. “Where?”She looked to Frank, who swallowed visibly, his Adam’s apple shaking in his throat.“Manchester.”“Manchester! That’s miles away!”“Thirty miles,” Mr Wing said. “Nothing in this day and age, Mrs Jenkins.”“I see.” Carol drew in a deep breath, trying to stay calm. “So you’ll be offering them transport a bus, maybe.”“Well, no, not with the shifts. It wouldn’t be cost effective.”“It would for them!”Mr Smythson stepped in.“Can’t you see, Mrs Jenkins, if Xion goes under, we all go under.”“So, better to sacrifice some eccentric northerners, then.”“It’s not a matter of sacrifice. It’s simply that this factory has reached its time for retirement. As could you, if that was what you wished.”


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