Megatons of water from the huge lake reservoir swept through tunnels, plummeted down shafts, and whirled the great turbines into a frenzy of rotation. Their deafening voices could still be heard in the control room. Subdued by metres of solid rock, the muffled roar tugged at the edges of consciousness. To the white coated men, who wandered the room checking the dials, it was no longer noticeable although they habitually raised their voices a little when talking to each other.
The general manager confronting the union officials was not having a good day. He needed to be diplomatic, but he wasn’t feeling diplomatic. His head ached from the excesses of the night before. The row with his wife at breakfast replayed itself again and again. “That’s it!” she had said, “I’m leaving you!”
“… and our members have a good case. Clauses 7(a) and 9(c) are in directed contravention of the federal award. What do you say to that?” The union secretary obviously awaited a reply.
The manager, who had caught only the final part of his remarks, tried to stall for time. “I am sure these matters can be resolved. I will consult further with my board and our legal advisers. But meanwhile the ruling stands: no penalty payments; no meal allowances.” _
The union rep flushed. “Are you serious, man?” he looked at the manager in disbelief.”
“Quite serious,” said the manager.
“In that case we have no option. I shall recommend that our members stop work at midnight tonight.”
In the control room the phone light flashed, augmenting the bell. One of the white coated figures answered. “Okay,” he said. He turned to the others, “It’s on!”
Silently they started the shutdown; switch after switch in a carefully prearranged order. The flood of water was diverted to alternative channels, bypassing the huge turbines. The muffled roar dwindled to a strange silence. The white coated man,^ quite unconsciously, shook his head like a swimmer with water in his ears. “Well that’s it!” he said a little too loudly, “NO POWER!”