The Trade Union

7 min read

Bernard walked into the coffee shop and ordered a cup of tea. Before the tea arrived the night manager came upto his table.

"We can go now" he told Bernard.

"I have just ordered a cup of tea. I thought you were busy"

"I will wait. I saw you come in. When you finish here, come to the banquet hall. I will be inside" the night manager went back to the lobby.

Bernard paid for his tea and took the lift to the 2nd floor and tried the door of the banquet hall, which opened. There was one light burning inside and the night manager was waiting for him.

"You have about ten minutes. I have a VIP guest coming in and have to be at the lobby then" he told Bernard.

"This won't take much time" Bernard told him, pulling out a small bottle from his pocket. He walked up to the head table and started sprinkling water from the bottle on the chairs. From the head table he walked down and started moving from table to table sprinkling each chair with a few drops of water from the bottle.

"Be careful, not to leave any stains" the manager told him.

"This is pure water. There will be no stains and no marks by morning" Bernard assured the manager as he sprayed the last chair.

"How is this going to help you" the manager asked, pocketing the envelope which was pushed into his hand.

"You will find out in the morning. Shall we go"

The banner at the entrance to the Grand Hotel on the Dubai beach welcoming the COMPRO delegates announced their annual general meeting. Members who had arrived early from the neighbouring beach resorts were seated in the lobby, greeting old friends. The topic of discussion was Bernard Smith. There were delegates from all over the world, mostly from Canada, USA, UK, India, Japan and Australia, representing the branches in those countries.

"He is a bloody fool to try for nominations again"

"He must be thinking that we are all bloody fools"

"He wants to make some more money"

"I have a list of his shareholdings in about twenty-five companies. I am going to produce them at the meeting"

"Most of his investments are in his girl friend's name"

"He will have a lot to answer when they present the annual accounts"

"We should throw out the whole gang of crooks"

"Don't worry. We have arranged everything"

Bernard arrived at the hotel with the members of the management committee, a few minutes before ten. They greeted the members they met on their way to the banquet hall, and did not care if almost all of the members failed to return their greetings. Some of them were openly hostile, and made sarcastic comments.

There was a crowd at the entrance to the hall. They refused to make room for the committee members to enter. Behind them, Bernard saw more members gathering and they found themselves sandwiched between the two groups. They were pushed around and separated from each other. Someone tried to grab the briefcase in Bernards hand, which he held on to. Another pulled at his jacket. Everyone was shouting, pouring abuse and insults on Bernard and his committee. Hotel staff and other guests were looking out from their rooms and office doors.

Suddenly the doors to the banquet hall flew open under the pressure from the crowd pushing against it and they fell in to the hall, those who were nearest the doors loosing their balance and falling over the tables and chairs inside.

Immediately they came in, there was a sudden calm and silence, even though outside the shouting and pushing went on. Bernard found his way to the dais, his normal calm self, and one by one the office bearers reached him. Inside the hall, things appeared very calm, as if no incident had happened outside. Bernard watched how the faces changed as they entered the room. The anger was gone.

They heard loud cheers outside as the new group who were threatening to oust Bernard and his supporters came down the corridor towards the hall. As they entered the room they too fell silent and the group leaders walked upto the tables in front of the dais and sat down, waving at those seated behind.

Bernard Smith, as the President of the International Union of Computer Programmers, declared open their annual general meeting and requested the secretary general to read the minutes for the year 2004. There was total silence, no applause, and most surprising no disturbances, as had been expected.

The minutes were adopted without any arguments. The calm before the storm, thought the committee members, but could not understand the smug look on Bernards face. Those who knew him best expected him to have something up his sleeve.

The next item on the agenda, and the most important, was the election of office bearers for the year 2005. Bernard stood up and on behalf of his committee offered the resignation of all office bearers for the outgoing year.

A protem chairman had to be appointed, and Bernard, to the surprise of both friend and foe, nominated his opponent, Ramesh Patel, which was carried unopposed. Bernard offered his chair to Ramesh and walked down to a chair in the front row.

Ramesh, looked around him, he caught the eyes of his supporters who were scattered all over the hall, to make sure that they could prod the neutral delegates into voting for Ramesh Patel and his team. Ramesh thanked the outgoing president for nominating him as protem chairman and got down to the business at hand and called for nominations for the president.

"I propose the name of Mr. Ramesh Patel from Canada, as the new president of COMPRO" Abdul Hassen from Pakistan stood up immediately.

"I wish to second it" stood up Priyangika Jayawardena from Australia.

There was a moments silence. People craned their necks, looking around for more nominations. Bernard nodded his head and Akino Ikeda proposed the name of Bernard Smith of Great Britain for president. Christopher Papas from Cyprus seconded the name.

There were no other names and Ramesh called for the vote, which was by secret ballot, as had been agreed upon several years ago. The ballot was punched into the keyboards at their tables, after each member punched in his identification code. Ramesh watched his central monitor and those who were seated in the front rows could see his face changing first from wonder to frustration and then to anger as from time to time his eyes roamed the faces of the gathered delegates.

A signal sounded as the last entry was done, and on every screen the results were displayed. Ramesh had received a vote count of 45, and Bernard had received 98. There was complete silence, with the members looking at each other and Rameshs supporters looking around in confusion.

After what appeared to be a long time, Ramesh stood up, bowed to the audience before addressing them.

"The vote count is on your screens, and you are already aware the majority decision is for the re-election of Mr. Bernard Smith and I invite him to come up and take the chair as the new president of COMPRO, to continue with the rest of the days business. I take this opportunity to thank all delegates who voted for me and who worked for me, and also to convey the best wishes and congratulations to Mr. Smith"

The meeting continued without any further surprises or disturbance.

The first act of the new president of COMPRO, on reaching his hotel room was to call his bank in Switzerland and advice to transfer USD 25,000 to the Saadhu Jana account in Singapore.

The re-elected secretary of COMPRO, Clifford came into his room before the others.

"How did you manage it" he asked as soon as he was inside the room, "i was really worried when they crowded us at the entrance to the hall"

"With this" Bernard showed the nearly empty bottle on the table, with a tone of respect.

"What is it" Clifford wanted to know. Bernard merely smiled. He did not want to tell him that it had arrived at his London office the previous day by courier from a place called Ananthnandi in India.

© Daya Dissanayake 2022 Contact