Wednesday, September 19, 2007

2007. Post Apartheid SA - NZ, 1998, Beneficiary and WINZ

< 1998. Gran & Grandpa Mackintosh, Hanmer Springs.

In January 1998, I signed a two month bakery contract, after Marti tried to get me to sign a six week contract. Crumbles had tried to steal two weeks' work and wages from me. It was my fourth contract signed at the bakery in eight months. The Employment Contracts Act favoured employers, requiring employees to repeatedly sign their financial death-warrants.

Alleman's January dispatch: "Matric results were disastrous. Riots in Alice - Fort Hare University bankrupt, forced to close. In Jo'burg's Reiger Park, residents' water is stopped because of non-payment. Municipal debts rose from 6-10 billion Rand. Bethulie mayor arrested for sheep theft. Employment Equity Law being debated will force racial quota employment. [ANC emulated PM Hertzog's 1920s affirmative-action for Afrikaners: RW Johnson, South Africa, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2004].

New SA has learnt from old SA. Race! Race! Race! The story of a non -racial society is propaganda for the rest of the world. Liberal standards are undermined by people who don't understand democracy. You don't have democracy without a democratic culture.

A black Director of Education swore at a white woman in a meeting. She tried to leave, so he punched her. She tried telephoning, so he dragged her away by her hair, then took her car keys stopping her leaving. Black schooling, medical services, state administration, local government deteriorates. Thousands of gold mine employees are retrenched. There're so many armed robberies, that the army will be used to curb crime. Robbers use armour-piercing bullets. Some arrested robbers are cops and traffic officers, former ANC freedom -fighters."

I asked Crumbles for time off to be job-interviewed by Augean Mushrooms. Crumbles objected, shouting so others heard, "I don' give a fuck aboud yourwa job innerview?"

After I sent a written grievance to the directors, they dithered for weeks, and did nothing about disciplining Crumbles, Spanner and Katipo. I reckoned good management would've sorted out my grievance within 48 hours.

I queried a job agent about obstacles deaf people experienced in finding work.

She wrote: "Regarding casual warehouse labouring, most of our temporary warehouse and labouring assignments have a forkhoist and machinery based element where our client company's safety requirements require employees and temporary staff to comply to safety procedures. These may include staff being aware of falling objects, warning alarms and general communication amongst employees. I appreciate your challenge in trying to overcome bigoted attitudes of employers, however I must ensure the safety of all our agency's temporary working staff. Should we receive a request for an assignment where the role required or working environment will not be hazardous to your safety, I will be happy to discuss this with you." (January 1998 letter. Opal Consulting Group).

So much for Equal Employment Opportunities. During two years of Christchurch labourer work, I found lip-service was paid to OSH, but in reality most of the labouring jobs I did were hazardous. Labourers paid a high price in injuries for low wages. Two of my left-hand fingers where scarred for life, when skin was sliced off by bakery machinery. I developed a frozen shoulder while lugging boxes, and worked with a sore back and frozen shoulder for months. Those injuries had nothing to do with my deafness, and only healed after I left the bakery, which was also sneaky about health requirements. Before a health inspector arrived, there was frantic cleaning, and a huge stack of grimy bakery -trays was plastic-wrapped on a pallet, and hidden in a warehouse, so new trays could impress the inspector.

When I asked the job agent for a list of jobs for deaf people, according to Health and Safety in Employment Act requirements, she advised me to contact an Auckland Human Rights organization. I never heard from her again. I found NZ bosses, bureaucrats and job agents often quoted legislation, but never questioned morality of the laws they quoted.

Augean Mushrooms employed me as a chargehand to supervise a weekend pre-packer team, as well as pack mushrooms with a week pre-packer team. Campestris, who'd interviewed me, offered no chargehand wage, just hourly packer pay.

The faster we packed during the week, the sooner we finished, and the less we were paid. The weekend team, mainly Filipinas, an Egyptian engineer, a Shangai Chinaman and I worked slowly, and earned more money. Campestris said, "You'll replace the Filipina chargehand to improve productivity?" Rotten Employment Relations, as the Filipina chargehand worked alongside me.

One lunchbreak, a union leader talked to the weekend team about productivity. Campestris folded his arms and compared productivity of the weekend team with the week team. He expected me to feel guilty about slowness of the weekend team, and expected me to dob in the Filipina chargehand, for a pay problem of his own making.

Like the bakery, Augean Mushrooms exploited foreign workers. Most weekend pickers and packers were Asian or African immigrants and refugees, including some Pakeha, Maori and me: our hands in horseshit, which stained the concrete floor black. Mostly Pakeha worked during the week. After a month I left. I was burnt out. When I met Campestris again at Hornby mall, he avoided eye contact.

I'd worked full-time for 16 consecutive months, and not one of my weekly wages was enough to support my family. After 2 years' Christchurch labouring, working for less than NZ$9/hour, I reckoned my average wage was NZ$258 net/week, which hardly paid my rent. I'd worked for 11 organizations, 3 of which had sent me to temp jobs at other businesses. I'd signed 14 ECA work contracts, and was sacked 4 times. I'd resigned 3 times due to verbally abusive bosses, and / or structurally violent work conditions. I was locked out of Wigram Orchard, although no union contract had been offered. Only 3 of my ECA junk-jobs were amicably ended.

< 1998. Esslemonts, 40 Nottingham Ave, Oaklands, Christchurch.

Eye-rolling Gosling signed me on for the dole again. In 1998, Income Support and Employment Service bureaucracies merged, forming Work and Income NZ (WINZ): biggest state department. WINZ briefly touted a Community Wage, paying an unemployed person NZ$21 for about 20 hours weekly Work-for-the dole community work: an unworkable system, as some beneficiaries worked for the dole, and others didn't. For years, Gosling and her clones would chivvy Leah and me, processing form-letters, forms, telephone calls, and pointless meetings. Never mind huge stresses on our family. While our boys grew up, we never had a decent family holiday in NZ.

WINZ processed dole payments, and was a cheap-labour agent for employers. Most WINZ advertised jobs were casual jobs, temp jobs and part-time hourly-paid jobs, without hope of permanent work. Short term jobs were subsidised by the dole. There was no motivation for employers to provide decent wages for short-term jobs, as junk jobs were topped up by the dole. $21 Work-for-the-dole showed that the National government, WINZ and employers poorly valued unemployed people. Organizations providing Community Wage work, exploiting the unemployed, were either incapable of paying decent wages and shouldn't've been in business, or used the state to subsidize their labour. Community Wage work besmirched volunteer work. There was no fair go with employers expecting employees to top up low-wages with state dole and accommodation supplements.

Leah attended a Seabrook McKenzie Centre, Specific learning Disabilities (SLD) diploma course, enabling Leah to use her phonics skills to remediate dyslexic and other learning disabilities. Her tutor pay was more than twice her teacher-aide pay.

Some SA dentists and medical specialists couldn't find NZ jobs, due to job registration obstructions. Some immigrants couldn't integrate, and backspoored to their homelands. Some trekked to Australia, where their expertise was more appreciated. Others, like us, were held back by closed-shop registrations, or qualifications requirements, or underemployment, or the lot.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.


No comments: