So we set out on our quest.
We journeyed far, to a mysterious retail park on the edge of a magical city.
We had a McDonalds, and we saw that it was mediocre. I became disoriented by the sterile white furniture and symmetry.
We smoked outside a majestic twelve-screen cinema.
We went in.
We were led into Screen 6.
We were told a load of stuff we already knew about why the overlords of our company saw fit to replace us with robots. Basically: It makes business sense. And it does.
We were then told what we all (well, most of us) expected. As soon as the digital installation at our site is complete, every member of the projection team will be made redundant.
When this happens, we have four options:
Apply for a single available management position which means dealing with customers and staff and cash and such, but also dealing with the greatly reduced projection workload a couple of days a week.
Apply for a team-leader position, which basically means you're a lackey for management, doing pretty much the same job for less pay.
Become a popcorn jockey.
Accept redundancy and walk.
We were told that the company didn't want to lose us, that it would do everything to "re-deploy" us in positions we were suited for. I voiced my concern that institutionalised projectionists are not suited for very much else, particularly anything involving dealing with the public. I told them I would be like Brooks in "The Shawshank Redemption", who can't function in the real world outside the safety of the prison walls.
I was told that I could be retrained. If I had a problem with customers, why not go downstairs on an evening and mingle with them? Basically, I was told to get used to it, cos I was heading down to ticket-tearing hell whether I like it or not.
Much was said about the method behind all this. Making projection teams compete for a single management place, demoting projectionists to front-of-house whilst, at this point, being unable to say whether they would receive a pay cut, it all seems a little insensitive, right?
We were told that this is more than projectionists in certain other cinema chains were given. They just found out they didn't have a job anymore.
My boss said it was like somebody telling you they were going to kick you in the balls before they did so.
It's surprising how little we have actually been told, though. They don't know what the redundancy package is yet but, as was pointed out during the meeting, we recently signed a new employee handbook which apparently omitted reference to any redundancy arrangement. Really should start reading those things.
They don't know exactly when the change-over will start (early next year, they said), they don't know which order the sites will be converted in, so we have no idea when our jobs will cease to exist, they don't know how much notice we'll be given when our site is scheduled for conversion, we've basically just been told our number could be up anytime in the next year.
This all comes, of course, with the promise that this is just a business plan and is yet to be finalised, so if we have any alternative suggestions or a better business model to present, we may do so by wednesday. We're projectionists. How the fuck can we argue with a business plan researched and developed by number-crunching stat-fetishists with their eye on the bottom line?
The fact of the matter is, we can't. As I keep saying, it makes absolute business sense for the company to move forward with this plan. Their obvious awareness of this made all the platitudes we were being fed all the more patronising.
When you're looking at a presentation that climaxes with the company saving tens of millions of pounds, it's hard to argue that they shouldn't go through with it because a tiny fraction of that will be saved by them not having to pay your wages anymore.
See if you can guess which of the aforementioned four options I will be taking?