locking in the managers … ‘We need to check we have the backup.’ ‘Management leaves us no choice. It’s one provocation after another. Anyone would think they’re trying to …’ ‘That’s what worries me.’
‘Look, we’ve got to act fast and decisively. We all go there together, we lock them in: one night will be enough, tomorrow morning, they’ll cave in. Look at the Korean in his car.’ Gives a little kick to the roof which clangs. They all see the terrified face again, the car rocking, the power of concerted action. ‘They’re afraid of us. Let’s make the most of it. If we don’t get their respect today, then tomorrow, they’ll close down and we’ll be left with nothing. We lock them in now. All those in favour?’
There follows no more than an instant’s indecision. Étienne raises his hand along with the whole first shift from packaging. All the rest of the hands go up. Aisha finds it hard to believe, but she’s voting to lock the managers in. While four men retrieve the computer and the boxes of files from the boot ( nothing that belongs to the company must leave the premises without our con sent ), the delegation re-forms and places itself at the head of the procession. The small troop starts to advance in a relatively ordered manner. The car lies abandoned on its side, facing the gate, the boot gaping. The Korean still hasn’t budged.
Park, his face sallow, is clamped to his phone.
‘They’re on their way, they plan to occupy the offices … There’s going to be trouble.’
‘What kind of a damned stupid thing have you gone and done? It’s a disaster. Explain what’s going on.’
‘When I started here, I set up a system of bogus invoices so as to pay the Korean managers a relocation allowance …’
A roar from the other end of the phone. Quignard leaps to his feet, knocking over his chair. He bangs his fist down on his desk, making the brandy glasses jump and knocking over a vase of chrysanthemums, soaking the files sitting on the desk. Maréchal grabs the glasses, puts them out of danger, and rights the vase.
‘Delete the lot, for fuck’s sake, what are you waiting for?’
Tell him they tried to smuggle the computer out and that it’s in the hands of the strikers? Better to die.
‘The bookkeeper who deals with it isn’t in today, we don’t know where the files are, we can’t delete all the accounts …’ Park squeals like a frightened rabbit, and the line goes dead.
The management block, a cube of reflective glass with two steps up to the main entrance, a rather unimpressive glorified hangar, is only a few minutes’ walk away, but it’s enough to give them all time to think about what they’re doing. We’re venturing on to their territory, invading their space, barricading our bosses made of flesh and blood, pushing them around, locking them in with us, talking to them as equals. We’re disrupting the social order. At least for a while. So each step counts, we’ll remember each step. And they keep close together, in silent, closed ranks. The women bring up the rear, hanging back a little, anxious, hesitant – toomany men, too close together. Some discreetly slip away, through the factory and across the waste ground.
Amrouche marches despite himself, borne along by those behind him. This is it, now, the explosion, the anger, my years of dread, the other side is so much stronger, they’ve always won, they’ll always win. Lambs to the slaughter. He leans towards Hafed.
‘We’ve got to stop all this, it’s going to be a disaster.’
‘I don’t understand why the management scumbags haven’t already all gone home. What are they playing at? We can’t do a thing.’
Nourredine, pushed forward by his comrades, stands in front of the door: locked. Tries to slide it open: jammed. He doesn’t have time to turn around before a surge from the back of the group, gathering momentum from row to row, lifts the men at the front off the ground and