Hard to say when it initially started. Grumbles and mumbles of discontent within the ranks have been circulating since well before 2019, the year those massive bushfires raged throughout Australia, but they’ve always remained very low key—until this year, that is.
The Annual General Meeting of the I.U.E. & Co. (International Union of Elves & Company), which is always held in a different location, has just taken place on the first of December. By rights, this year’s AGM ought to have been in Qatar, but in view of the World Cup taking place there, it was decreed that Dili, East Timor, should host the event. Incidentally, it’s the very first time the meeting has been held without the presence of the big boss, Santa himself, although who knows if that would have made any difference. He had to be excused, being laid low with a nasty dose of COVID, and his Chief Executive Elf, Pepper Minstix, was elected to chair the meeting in his absence.
First to arrive were the Senior Elf Managers from the various departments. After they had taken their seats upon the stage, into the vast hall trooped the Junior Elf Overseers, followed by the Minions. All of them. The entire venue was literally bursting at the seams, many of the smaller Minions perching on the shoulders of their taller colleagues, clambering onto the chandeliers or even shinnying up the pillars in order to see. What a racket!
Once the introductions and usual formalities had been dispensed with, an odd and rather tense undercurrent gradually manifested itself, with scattered groups of Minions pushing and jostling their colleagues about. This was totally unheard of. But this was to be no normal reunion, I can assure you.
“Let us commence!” Pepper called.
First item upon the agenda was the planned reshuffle of the Administration Department, designed to cope with the ever-increasing quantities of incoming emails. A drastic reduction in letters arriving by snail-mail has meant that numerous redundancies throughout the postal division are to be envisaged and staff replaced by I.T. specialists—An extremely unpopular proposal! Despite breezy reassurances from one of the Senior Elves that these would be kept to a strict minimum, and those affected would be duly compensated, a group of disgruntled-looking Minions to the left of the room began chuntering and waving their fists.
“Moving swiftly on,” Pepper said hastily, tapping his gavel on the podium, “next on our agenda, is an ambitious proposal to decommission Santa’s heavy, old-fashioned sleighs in favour of electric vehicles. This will bring us into line with current norms, massively reducing our carbon footprint. We...”
“Woahhh! Wait a minute! What’s all this? Halt the proceedings. Make way, we’re coming through.”
At the rear of the hall, there was a sudden kerfuffle, then the sea of Minions silently parted to reveal a narrow passage, through which a livid, knee-high Elf Overseer marched, flicking and brandishing an ornately bejewelled whip around his head, a stream of Minion stable hands trotting dutifully in his wake.
“What’s all this rubbish?” he screeched, a single bushy ginger eyebrow waggling furiously over two flashing emerald eyes. “Decommissioning the sleighs? Totally preposterous! What about Rudolph, Dasher and all our other reindeer teams? Against reindeer rights, so it is.”
“Mr Oppensley, hello. Come, settle down and be reasonable,” Pepper cajoled. “Wunnorse, my dear fellow, surely you realise we must act responsibly to preserve the environment... protect our planet. The amount of methane emissions produced by all the reindeer is astronomical. I’m afraid it has to stop. New regulations state th...”
“Beware of too many farts!” someone yelled, before dissolving into hysterics. Peels of gleeful Minion laughter and raucously noisy ‘fart’ impressions drowned out the rest of the Chief Executive Elf’s argument, forcing him to sit down in embarrassment, his face an unflattering shade of puce.
“Get rid of my reindeer?” shouted Wunnorse Oppensley. “Over my dead body!”
“Over his dead body!” sang the stable hands.
“Protect reindeer rights!” chorused the Minions. “Protect reindeer rights!”
Pandemonium erupted in the hall—semi jovial, semi furious—bringing the AGM to a standstill. Pepper Minstix and the board of Senior Elves huddled together on the stage. They eventually managed to bring back a semblance of order to the meeting by hammering their gavels on the heavy exotic teak table in unison.
“Order! Order!” Pepper said, in as imperious a tone as he could manage. “Well, uhm... thank you for that, Mr Oppensley. I hereby decree that this matter shall be brought before Santa and the Department of Reindeer Rights in due course. This meeting shall now resume with the planned agenda.”
Many of the Minions mumbled and shuffled their feet, nervous, yet excited and amazed at their own bravery. This was a first! Who knew how far they might dare to go in the future?”
“A complaint has been registered by Mr Uppatree from the Clockwork Department,” said Pepper. “Shinny, please expand.”
A bandy-legged Elf Overseer stood and cleared his throat.
“My department is no longer fit for purpose,” he began. “Our skills are outdated; my workers simply cannot cope. We need training courses for all. Each and every one of us!”
Sporadic cries of “Aye, you tell ’em, Shinny!” and “That’s right! We shouldn’t have to put up with the likes o’ this,” sounded from here and there.
“Long gone are requests for our beautifully crafted train-sets, intricately decorated model aeroplanes, or hand carved jigsaw puzzles. Instead, we’re inundated with demands for electronic games, smartphones and digital cameras.” Murmurs of agreement rippled through the audience as the mood of joviality faded and discontentment grew.
“Same in the Doll Department,” interrupted a voice from the back. “We get more requests for Trans-dolls than Barbie dolls these days. What can we do?” This was met by angry howls and jeers of derision.
Shinny glanced nervously at the Minions surrounding him. They egged him on, fists raised in support. A growing number began scowling and nodding in agreement.
“We are willing to work hard, but we demand adequate compensation and fair treatment,” he shouted, struggling to be heard over the mutinous muttering of the Minions.
“Even our most skilled Elf Engineer, the revered Andy Witools, is at a loss with how to manufacture these new-fangled motherboards, electronic chips and so on.”
“Something’s gotta change,” yelled a spiky-haired young Minion swinging from a chandelier. “I vote we stage a strike.”
“Aye, he’s right.”
“He is. We should demand better conditions in the workplace, too...”
“Yep. I say shorter hours... Plus overtime pay.”
“Strike! Strike! Strike!”
Those nearby stamped their feet, joining in with the rhythmic chorus, “Strike! Strike! Strike!”
Pepper Minstix stood and flapped his arms. “Order! I demand order!” His shrill, teeny-weeny Elfin voice, so unlike Santa’s stentorian tones, was barely audible over the chanting crowd. The situation continued to deteriorate still further and I could imagine the scene turning truly ugly. That was when I skedaddled. I’d never before been witnessed such shocking shenanigans at an AGM.
I am, therefore, unable to relate to you the final outcome. Please accept my apologies. I am told that negotiations are still taking place—now with Santa himself. So, like me, I’m afraid that you’re all just going to have to wait and see if industrial action has been decided. I guess we’ll find out on the morning of the 25th.