Ah children, how time flies! It is almost 60 years since I started at MANN+HUMMEL, first working as an assembly line worker, before moving on to work in the turning shop. Back then, both departments were still located in the Pamina Mann textile factory in the shed buildings, which would later become plant 7. And, yes, MANN+HUMMEL was still active in the textile industry in those days, before the fashion branch was sold to the company Schiesser in 1974.

Working in the turning shop

In 1958, a year after I joined MANN+HUMMEL, I became a workshop clerk in the turning shop. My role involved tasks like handing out work schedules, and using coupons and time cards to calculate the wage payments. These would then be sent to the payroll office in plant I, where I began working in 1970.

Back then, there was no fixed monthly salary. Instead, the employees were paid according to the number of hours they had worked (time rate) or according to the number of pieces processed (individual or group piecework). In addition to this, there were collectively agreed overtime rates of 25 or 50 per cent. Until 1958, the payroll clerks used to calculate the working and overtime hours by hand, note them down on the time cards and log everything in the journal. The time cards from the ‘Hollerith’ department – also known as the punching hall – were then further processed.

After the salaries had been finalised, it was time to collect the money from the bank. This involved recording exactly how many 50, 20, 10 and 5-mark banknotes and coins were required for each department. The calculations had to be correct down to the last “pfennig”. The wages were then put into pay packets and the payroll clerks would then travel to plant II on the company bus to hand the pay packets over to the foremen. “So, it’s payday today!” was the usual comment. The foremen would then take the pay packets and distribute them to the employees.

At the start of the 1960s, MANN+HUMMEL used to employ lots of guest workers from South Tyrol, Italy, Spain and later on from Turkey. Although, to begin with, they could often hardly speak German, they worked very hard and really helped with the country’s economic recovery.

From 1967 onwards, the wages were paid by the bank. Since the cashless process was cheaper for MANN+HUMMEL, back then we used to get DEM 2.50 account fee as an incentive to open an account. I still use the account I opened at the Volksbank all those years ago! Later, when computers were introduced, the payroll accounting was printed on to transfer forms, which were then sent to the bank by post.

Share of earnings from 1952

Working in payroll

On 1 April 1970, I became a permanent employee and came to work for Messrs Lermer and Ruoff as a payroll clerk. I remember Mr Lermer came to me and asked if I would like to work in the payroll department. He had heard that my time cards were always flawless. My reply was something like, “Yes, but I’ll probably only last a year or two before some youngster takes my place.” He replied that even a year or two would help. As it turned out, that year or two became 24 – 1970 to 1994.

When I started in payroll, there was already a mainframe computer in the IT department. So, we had to transfer the time and flexitime cards to the system for payroll processing. Nonetheless, we always did random checks to make sure all the calculations had been done correctly, which wasn’t always the case!

During the holidays in particular, there was plenty to do in the payroll office as there were always lots of college and school students who came to work at MANN+HUMMEL. At the end of the holidays, we would have up to 70 people leaving in a week and would have to do the calculations by hand. Luckily, I had a little calculator to help. It was a sort of metal machine with a lever – you would have to punch the figures in first and then pull the lever to get the result.

The 48-hour week

They were hard times, but still good times and I always enjoyed going to work. Our working day used to start at 7 o’clock in the morning. We also used to work Saturdays back then and had a 48-hour week. When I started there, I hadn’t even turned 18 but I grew into the job.