The big jolly man with the snowy white beard and twinkling eyes was looking a little less than his usual jovial self. Sat behind a big mahogany desk in a leather swivel chair, Santa shook his head and slammed his fist down. “No, Rudolph, my decision is final – I can’t afford to pay you more or give you paid meal breaks on Christmas night. It’s just not possible in these tough economic times.” Rudolph’s red nose glowed with anger. “It’s not right, Saint Nick! My boys work right through the night – nearly twenty four hours we do, non-stop, without even a toilet break and you’re suggesting we do it for less pay than we got last year… it’s nothing short of exploitation and we won’t stand for it!” The man known to millions as Father Christmas shrugged his shoulders. “It’s not my fault, old friend. Where am I supposed to get the money from? There’s not exactly a lot of profit in flying round the world handing out free toys, is there?” Rudolph screwed his face up in disgust. “Don’t give me that, old man. Isn’t that a brand new Mercedes outside the toy workshop? How did you pay for that, fairy dust?” “Ah well”, Santa spluttered, “that was just…” “Don’t tell me the same lies you tell the Elf and Safety representative!” exclaimed the irate reindeer, “Remember, I know you! I know about all of the scams you have on the side… the 25% cut you get from every Santa in every department store around the world, the image rights you’ve managed to negotiate worldwide on every piece of Christmas merchandise, the fact that you have the elves making extra toys which you’re selling on to all of the major supermarkets! Business has never been better and you bloody well know it!”
Jolly old Saint Nick sighed. “You can think what you will, old pal”, he said calmly. Rudolph shook his antlers angrily. “Don’t give me that ‘old pal’ business either! All of the old gang have been with you for centuries and this is how you treat us. Reducing our wages, taking away our pensions, denying us basic rights such as toilet breaks and decent lodging facilities. There’s nine of us all sharing that tiny stable! Hardly the actions of a friend, wouldn’t you say, ‘old pal’?” Santa raised his hand dismissively. “Look, that’s the way things are. You do a unique job – and you only work one day a year! Tough economic times, you know.” Rudolph snorted, “Yes, but not for you, Pere Noel! I’m sorry, Santa, but you’ve left us with no choice. We’re going on strike on Christmas night, unless you give us what we want!” Santa’s face glowered with rage. “Stop these ridiculous reindeer games! You can’t go on strike! I’ll… I’ll…” “You’ll what?” snapped the bolshy reindeer, “Shake your belly like a bowlful of jelly? Say ‘ho ho ho’? Eat a mince pie and drink a glass of sherry?” The old man’s eyes stared darkly at the reindeer. “I didn’t think so!” smiled Rudolph, “Give us what we’re rightly entitled to or we don’t work tomorrow night. Your choice, Kris Kringle!”. With that, the reindeer turned round, strutted out and joined his reindeer friends outside Santa’s workshop. The bearded old fellow stroked his beard, thoughtfully, picked up the phone and then started to dial.
“How did it go?” asked Blitzen, expectantly. “I think it went well”, said Rudolph confidently. “He knows that he can’t do it without us. When Cupid and Dancer retired, he replaced them with Wojciech and Stanislaw, the Polish reindeer, but they have never been able to do the job as well as we have. I’m sure he pays them less than us, too. Hey, Stanislaw!”, Rudolph yelled to the stable buildings. An antlered face with straw hanging out of his mouth appeared in the window. “What do you want?”, asked the Polish reindeer, suspiciously. Rudolph grinned, “Show us your pay slip!” Stanislaw grimaced, stuck out his tongue and went back to eating his straw. Comet looked worried. “Look, Rudy, what happens if Santa sacks us all and replaces us with more of these cheap immigrant workers?” Prancer shook his head manically, “No, no, no, no, Santa won’t sack me, I’m the only gay reindeer in the village! They have discrimination quotas to fill these days, you know.” Rudolph held up his hoof for quiet. “Don’t worry, gang. Old Father Christmas needs us and he knows it. Remember a couple of years ago when he overdosed on the sherry and we ended up not only pulling his sleigh, but also delivering the presents down the chimney too, which he slept it off? Not easy for reindeer with hooves instead of hands with opposable thumbs to deliver presents, but we managed it. We’re awesome! The best in the business. Surely he knows that?”
Just then, Donna raced up with something in her mouth which she dropped onto the floor in front of the herd. “Guys, have you seen the newspaper? It’s not good!” The beasts all crowded round the tabloid and their eyes widened. “Greedy reindeer?” exclaimed Dasher. “Holding Christmas to ransom?” gawked Vixen. “Red Rudolph and his Commie Clan?” spluttered Rudolph. “I don’t understand it!” remarked Blitzen, “Surely we’re in the right? We don’t want anything other than a decent working wage and some dignity in retirement! They must see that?” Rudolph snorted, “You haven’t seen the comments section, yet!” The reindeer grew more incredulous as they read what the general public thought of the strike, including suggestions that the reindeer should come and explain to their children why they couldn’t have any presents from Santa, that Rudolph would definitely have a red nose if he came to Basildon because Big Frank would punch it right in and lots of people recommending handy recipes for reindeer burgers invented by none other than Gordon Ramsay. “I don’t want to be a reindeer burger!” sobbed Donna, running round in circles and totally losing the plot. Rudolph calmed her down. “Don’t worry, everyone. I know what’s happened. Santa’s just been on the phone to his friend Rupert Murdoch and has asked him to try to turn the public against us. The rest of the press will be a bit more balanced, I’m sure. We need to stay strong, comrades! Are you with me?” The reindeer all cheered and huddled together in solidarity.
Just then, Bob the Crow, the General Secretary of the Animal’s Union, landed on a fence post right in front of the reindeer. “Awright deer!” he squawked, fixing his beady eyes on them, “I’m here just to let you know that animals worldwide are standing wing-to-wing, hoof-to-hoof and paw-to-paw with you! If you’re out, we’re all out!”. Rudolph looked delighted. “What, every single animal in the world is prepared to join us on strike?” Bob the Crow hopped from one foot to the other, shiftily. “Well, yeah. Kind of. The animals who are in the Animal’s Union, anyway. You can’t count on the ones who aren’t unionised or the stupid ones who have formed their own worthless breakaway unions. So you have literally dozens of animals worldwide supporting you!” Dasher look puzzled. “Dozens?”, he enquired, “Out of millions of animals worldwide?”. Bob fluffed up his feathers and stood to his full height of several inches. “Well, yeah. Most animals are too stupid to see the benefits of belonging to a union. Especially sheep. They believe anything people in charge tell them. But you have at least fifty animals, including the Queen of England’s corgis and a couple of famous racehorses supporting your courageous actions. Don’t lose faith, brothers and sisters! See ya!” With that, Bob the Crow flew away into the distance. On the same horizon line, the reindeer could see a group of animals heading towards them at quite a pace. “It can’t be…”, a worried Rudolph murmured, straining his eyes to make out who the quadrupeds were.
But it was. It was none other than a herd of unicorns, who arrived with a rumble and pounding of hooves on the frozen tundra of the North Pole. The leader of the Unicorns, Fernando, tossed his mane and addressed Rudolph scornfully. “Move aside, big nose! We’re here to break the strike and to pull Santa’s sleigh!” Rudolph stood tall. “Never! Besides, you can’t pull Santa’s sleigh, you’re unicorns – you can’t fly!” The unicorns all roared with laughter. “Er, right… and reindeer usually can? I don’t see no wings, mate. All we have to do is turn up and the fat geezer in the red suit will do all of the magic, innit?”. Fernando sneered at the reindeer herd who were all looking rather unsure, apart from their fearless leader who took a deep breath. “Look, unicorns – I don’t know what you’re hoping to achieve. You can take our jobs for less pay… but one day Santa will want to pay you less and, if you refuse, who is to say which animals he will draft in to take your place? Ponies? Donkeys? Think about it carefully, brothers, we’re fighting for the rights of all workers, not just us!” The unicorns suddenly looked unsure and conferred amongst themselves. After a few moments, Fernando broke away from the group and grinned. “You’ve got a point, mate. OK, we’re with you… as long as you make sure we get a job here once you’ve won this battle!” “You’ve got yourself a deal!” exclaimed Rudolph, beaming. They were now at least twenty strong outside Santa’s workshop, all singing “We Shall Overcome”.
Mary Christmas, Santa’s wife, peered out of the window, wringing her hands. “I don’t like this at all, Nick, not at all.” Santa frowned and sat down, sighing loudly. “What can I do, dear? I can’t give in to this kind of extortion – they’re holding Christmas to ransom… and these are tough economic times for us all!” Mary rounded on Father Christmas angrily. “Not for us though”, she snapped, “We’ve just bought that eight bedroomed mansion in Jamaica as a holiday home! You’ve just ordered us a brand new luxury yacht! We don’t seem to be feeling the pinch at all!”. Santa spluttered and searched for words. “Well, we’re doing well, of course – but we have to! If we don’t stay rich, then our money won’t filter down to the working classes who then won’t prosper. The little people need me to live a life of luxury!” His wife exploded. “What a load of nonsense! If you paid them a decent wage and gave them better conditions, then they’d prosper! How does it make their life better by you having all of the money and them none?” Father Christmas shook his head, angrily. “You don’t understand, dear! All of the costs are up! Electricity, gas… extortionate! Even the little sea birds who deliver Santa’s letters are charging much more – Petrel prices have gone through the roof! Plus, it is my job as the CEO of Lapland Inc. to maximise profits for the shareholders!” Mary wrinkled her nose and dismissed his protests. “There are no shareholders, you silly old sod. There’s just you and me. We are Lapland Inc.! It’s greed – and nothing more! I want you to call Rudolph back into the workshop and give him what he wants.” Old Saint Nick almost turned purple with fury. “Give that four legged bastard what he wants? Are you serious?” Mary nodded, determinedly. “Absolutely. Otherwise I’m going on strike. In all departments! That means keeping your little yule log in your britches permanently!” Santa opened his mouth as if to speak, but nothing came out. He bowed his head and could manage just the two words. “Yes, dear.”
The reindeer with the big, shiny red nose came out of the Santa’s workshop beaming. Rudolph had won! Oh, how the reindeer loved him! How they shouted out with glee! Thanks to union solidarity, the kind heart of Mary Christmas plus, of course, Santa wanting to come more than once a year and not just down a chimney, the reindeer received a generous pay rise, their final salary pension was restored and they were allowed meal breaks during Christmas night as well as as many bathroom breaks as poor Donna and her dodgy bladder needed. The gallant unicorns got a job covering for the reindeer’s breaks and, although Father Christmas had to pay everybody more, he found that he could actually comfortably afford it, his workers we actually more productive as a result and were actually able to spend more money on Santa’s goods and services, leading to an even higher turnover than before and greater prosperity for all. What a shame this is a fictional Christmas story and not real life, eh? I would love to be able to say that they all lived happily ever after, but there were plenty of other struggles ahead, including the threat of job losses owing to technological advances, as well as rival Santa firms springing up across the world, threatening to put the original out of business, but that’s as far as this particular story goes because, frankly, I can’t be arsed.
Merry Christmas to one and all!