This week’s guru

Elf warning over Xmas schedule

With the Christmas season upon us, Guru is very worried. Harrods opened its
Christmas floor on 2 August and all is not well. While 10,000 sq ft of the
London store will ring to the sound of Lords-a-Leaping and Mohammed Al Fayed is
maid-a-milking Christmas for all it’s worth, the HR issues have clearly been

First, there’s the notion that Christmas-related gifts should be sold from
mid-summer onwards. This puts immense pressure on the elves to work longer
hours to get presents to the shops on time. Will Santa make use of the UK
Government’s White Paper to push Modern Apprenticeships for elves, to speed up
the production line?

This new Christmas schedule has far-reaching implications. Does a working
time directive of any kind apply to the elves? Do they have any union muscle to
back them up? Surely the RMT only covers Santa and the reindeer, as they are
the only ones who actually take to the air to transport any goods.

The ever-jolly head of the RMT, Bob Crow, will probably volunteer guidance
on this issue in his usual festive manner.

Furthermore, if Santa is to deliver so early, will Rudolph lead any
industrial action on behalf of the sleigh team under the forthcoming stress

Gone are the days when a job was for Christmas Eve and not for life, it

The work-life balance implications alone threaten to turn the entire festive
period into the greatest debacle since 1931, when the Coca-Cola marketing team
decided Santa should wear red instead of the traditional green of ol’ Saint
Nick. (Scary, but true.)

However, if the season to be jolly has indeed started, Guru is ecstatic. His
editors inform him that Personnel Today is not published over the Christmas
period, so Guru can take the next four months off to top up his tan.

Clear and present danger in Denmark

As debate rages around the North Pole and the elves take matters in hand to
form their own sector skills council, SEMTA (Santa’s Elves’ Manufacturing of
Toys Association), further Christmas-related unrest has broken out in Denmark.

Copenhagen recently hosted the 40th World Santa Congress, where more than
100 portly white-beards from as far away as Venezuela and Canada met to discuss
all matters Santa – in 30 tonnes of imported snow.

However, some delegates smelled something rotten in the state of Denmark.
The debate is raging as to whether the real Santa comes from Greenland or from
Finnish-backed Lapland.

Trouble also came from the Spanish delegate, who is trying to force other
Santas to give out presents on 6 January to coincide with the ‘Day of the Three
Kings’. This is when presents are traditionally handed out across the Iberian
peninsula. Tina Baungaard-Jensen, speaking on behalf of organisers Bakken and
Mr S Claus, said: "He tries this every year, but he won’t get away with

But while Santa’s representatives argue, the Big Man himself is sure to
remain serene – after all, he knows where all the bad girls live.

It’s gym life, but not as we know it

The next time Santa visits, it may not be to deliver presents, but to head
down to the gym.

In the UK, the Government is considering tax breaks for those who live an active
lifestyle to try and tackle the growing ‘couch potato culture’.

The proposals, put forward earlier this month at the inaugural meeting of
the Activity Co-ordination Team, seek to capitalise on the successful ‘get fit’
fiscal incentives instigated in Scandinavia, where companies get tax breaks if
they build a gym, replace snack dispensers with water coolers and bring in
healthier food in canteens.

In Finland, where Santa may (or may not) live, there is an ‘exercise’ tax
break and 70 per cent of the population takes 30 minutes to work out five times
a week. In England, just 32 per cent of us exercise – and that is mostly
through manual labour, not by actively pursuing sport.

Physical inactivity costs the country £2bn a year and contributes to 54,000
premature deaths – something that the Chief Medical Officer predicts is ‘a
health timebomb’.

Happy Christmas.

Ebenezer Guru Scrooge

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