EXCLUSIVE: Christmas saved after Santa Clause ends lockout
by a special correspondent
CHRISTMAS will still go ahead this year, after a last minute withdrawal of employer-initiated industrial action that was threatening the delivery of presents to children around the world.
Following a global campaign, the Executive Chairman of Santa Claus Enterprises, Kristopher (“Kris”) Kringle XIV, has agreed to drop all action against his workforce and lift a lock-out that had stopped all production at the corporation’s North Pole factory in the lead up to Christmas Day.
The damaging escalation of the dispute by Kringle followed revelations of a secret plan to replace the permanent elf workforce with a casualised labour supply of hobbits on guest worker visas.
Further investigations revealed that Kringle had been in negotiations with a number of prominent Wall Street investment banks about plans to carve up his multinational toy production and distribution empire carefully built by his family over many centuries for sale to private equity.
But the threat to Christmas has now been averted, following tense negotiations that have resulted in Kringle abandoning the plan to replace the permanent workforce.
The President of the Elves Labour Federation (ELF), Egalmoth Galion, welcomed the settlement of the dispute.
“All we have ever wanted was to bring joy and happiness to the children of the world,” Galion said.
“Elves make considerable sacrifices each year to ensure that high-quality presents are delivered on time. They work many hours of overtime under uncomfortable conditions with no complaints. They do this because of their commitment to the job and to the spirit of Christmas.”
Kris Kringle XIV inherited the business two years ago following the retirement of his father, Kristopher Kringle XIII, who had been at the helm of the venerable company for more than 50 years.
Kris Kringle, who has an MBA from Harvard, came to the role following a successful career at the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, which is known for its poor pay and conditions and hostile attitude to unions.
Upon assuming the position of chairman, he declared he would “Walmart-ise” Santa Claus Enterprises.
In early interviews, he was scathing of what he described as “antiquated and unproductive” working practices.
“We are competing in a global market and the way things have been done in the past has got to change,” he told Forbes magazine. “Anyone who is not willing to embrace change does not belong in this organisation.”
Kringle vowed to further automate the production lines and cut costs by both retrenching staff and requiring increased workplace flexibility. This jarred with the company’s traditions.
Among changes proposed by Kringle were:
- The roll-out of individual contracts in place of a collective agreement, which took away core conditions like penalty rates.
- The introduction of 10-hour shifts without a break in November and December.
- A 12-day fortnight.
- No paid overtime.
- Abolition of the employer-funded healthcare scheme.
- Automation of a key production line that had led to an increase in workplace injuries
- Outsourcing of reindeer delivery to a private contractor.
However, it was the uncovering of a secret plan to replace the permanent workforce with casual guest workers that was the final straw.
Santa Claus Enterprises has always employed elves and numerous generations of the same elf families have worked for the company.
Under the secret plan, the assets of Santa Claus Enterprises were to have been shifted into a new shelf company, with the workers employed by a separately created labour hire firm, Claus Workforce.
This company was then to have been placed into liquidation, and a new workforce of hobbit guest workers to have been brought in to replace the elves.
The discovery of the secret plan infuriated the normally placid elves, who sought a court injunction to prevent Kringle Jr. going ahead with it.
Kringle Jr. responded by locking out the workers.
“This has always been a happy workplace,” said Galion. “We saw ourselves as a family and Mr Kringle (XIV) as a friend, rather than a boss.
“We were always prepared to put in that extra effort, because we knew it was appreciated. But the current chairman has broken that bond between the workers and management.”
The lock-out generated a wave of global solidarity for the ELF members, including an online petition by LabourStart which quickly had 100,000 signatures. The petition appealed to Kristopher Kringle XIII to call on his son to end the lock-out.
This collective pressure eventually caused Kringle Jr. to cave in and withdraw the lock-out.
ELF spokesman Galion said his members would now re-double efforts to make up for lost time and ensure Christmas production was guaranteed. Kris Kringle XIV declined to comment.
The author is indebted to J.R.R. Tolkein for his inspiration for this article.