The programme launched with Charlie calling his minions into a meeting, and he pulled no punches by outrightly requesting that staff take part in writing their salaries on a board for the rest of the team to see.
Unrest ensued, bitterness was rife and to top it off Mullins left employees to sort it out amongst themselves - from call centre staff to canteen workers, all the way up to body workers and the plumbers themselves. The proposition was that instead of expecting him to raise salaries, staff were to evenly distribute their wage packets as a responsibility to their team.
Call centre workers on £18,000 were furious that a new recruit was earning £3,000 more a year. Mechanic Mark resented his co-worker earning £9,000 more despite having exactly the same position. Canteen worker Tina's measly income of £14,500 left her with only £5 a week in spare cash. Yet, the plumbers came out on trump, with some earning £150,000 a year.
So what was the solution? In an attempt to restore justice, call workers pleaded with plumbers to donate £3 a week of their earnings to bump up their £18,000 salaries, which was met with laughter and accusations of "go and find another job if you're not happy, nobodies forcing you to work here." Scott Mullins, Charlie's son and call centre manager, earns £120,000, with his only comment being "Dad's company- get off my case!" Equally, PR Director Karl refused to give up £1,000 of his £56,000 salary to donate to canteen worker Tina, instead asking for a pay rise increase to £75,000 (which Charlie scoffs at, saying "Who does he think he is, Max bleedin' Clifford?")
Overall, the documentary raises so many questions on the taboo of discussing wage packets and the dangers of running an informal pay scheme that, in Charlie's words, is based on 'You look like you're working hard, have a few more quid. You look like a lazy bastard, we take a few quid off ya'." There was also this overriding theme that people should feel grateful for any job at all, with top earning plumber 'Lurch' telling a call centre worker she should stop complaining about the cost of her rent and be grateful that she has a roof over her head, which of course was met with malice.
Hoiwever, the programme concluded with a happy workforce and a teary-eyed Charlie who was clearly proud of the results shown not by senior management, but by his team of mechanics in the garage. Instead of arguing over losing their wages, the team worked out that they could make savings across their supply chain without losing quality, using the money reaped back to fund the whole team gaining the pay rise they requested, with amounts met with Charlie's own money.
I'd recommend business owners in particular to watch the programme here if you want to see a great case study on analysing those working for you and how to inevitably gain a happier workforce. The mechanics initiative towards the end also sheds light on a recent trend encouraging businesses to give workers in lower positions projects to showcase their skills, eeking out the real talent within the company. However, I question the notion that any company can have a truly happy workforce if salaries are exposed. After all, it is usually those working on the ground level that are keeping the business afloat and suffer silently, while top earning execs reap the rewards and sit in comfortable private offices. Can there ever be an equlibrium whereby employees accept that rates of pay aren't always based on how hard you work?