Wednesday, September 12, 2007

2007. Christchurch NZ Junk Jobs and Post Apartheid SA Dispatches, 1996

< 1996 Oaklands, Christchurch. Esslemont Brothers hanging around with Kiwi mates.

NZ employers paid the state ACC (Accident Rehabilitation & Compensation Corporation) premiums, then the state paid for "no blame" work injuries. Although all my jobs had some degree of hazard and unsafe work practices, employees couldn't sue employers for workplace accidents. The National government's Accident Insurance Act 1998 made changes to Accident Insurance from 01/07/1999, ensuring employers own insurance paid for workplace injuries. It also saved employers money on ACC premiums. Nine months later, the new Labour government reversed the National government's decision. Businesses again had to pay ACC for employees.

Yam sent me to Pioneer stadium, where labourers erected marquees for a homes exhibition. A retired Kiwi soldier, who'd been in Bosnia, climbed and crawled along aluminium-girders without a safety rope. Workers hoisted themselves upwards on forklift prongs. Casual workers' safety was ignored by the Maori boss. There were multitudes where we came from. As Yam had sent too many labourers to Pioneer Stadium, I was sacked after two days.

I realized Employment Service, Income Support and Workbridge were sheltered employments for bureaucrats like Yam and Gosling, who were indifferent, or preachy, patronising and dogmatic towards unemployed professionals, more qualified and work experienced than them. If bureaucrats found permanent work for the multitudes, bureaucrats would become unemployed, so bureaucrats just chivvied with phone calls and letters.

I signed on at more job agencies. One agent wanted me to sell Amway products. I declined, as she used my private information for her own self-interest. I removed furniture for removalists - back-breaking work. At the Airport, Chow and I cleaned Hercules aircraft at the USA's Deep-Freeze Antarctic air base. We stood on aluminium wheeled-platforms, while scrubbing wings, using liquid-soap to remove engine-exhaust carbon. Later, soap-burnt skin peeled off my arms and face.

We laboured in Meadow Fresh warehouses, unloading and palletising sacks of milk-powder from containers. We checked milk-powder sacks for mouse-holes. We found mouse-shit amongst sacks, and stomped on mouse-nests and mice. We placed torn sacks in new sacks and re-palletised. We swept up pink-powder mouse-poison, then Rentokil workers laid sticky mouse-traps and new poison. Gasmasks weren't supplied.

We unloaded containers and palletised juice bottles at a Ferry Road warehouse. Chow then dobbed me into our job agency, as I didn't palletise boxes his slow way. Although a Canterbury University student, Chow couldn't adapt to my faster stacking pattern. Thereafter on-call warehouse work stopped. Waiting for phone calls for low-paid jobs was demoralizing. Leah took my calls, as I couldn't use the phone anymore.

None of my jobs earned sufficient wages to support my family. The more jobs I did the more National government Income Support adjusted my dole payments. Leah phoned in my meagre wages each week, and Gosling never said, "These are yourwa entitlements? These are the benefits you should apply forwa?..." Employers knew if I was sacked I'd go on the dole, so there was no motivation for employers to pay decent wages.

Leah began work as an Oaklands School teacher-aide. Our combined dole and job incomes were insufficient to support our family. Our reduced SA funds still subsidized our NZ residence.

Houses were built too close together, but builders sometimes demolished old houses and built three wooden-frame houses on old quarter-acre properties. Privacy sucked, as Kiwi neighbours watched us. Cops placed dobbing-in requests in the media: "Police would like to hear from..." One neighbour dobbed-me-in for wrongly parking my car outside my home. TV programme, Neighbours at War showed interfering neighbours, their dobbing-in mentality, and feckless council workers.

Over the years we had two dodgy neighbours: One sold cigarettes illegally to teenagers, and was regularly spoken to by cops. Another was a known jailbird, recidivist burglar, less regularly spoken to by cops. Leah and I regularly yelled, "Oi! Clear off!" when Leah heard nocturnal tappings near our home. He sported a ponytail and pitbull terrier to intimidate neighbours. More cop cars pulled up near our Christchurch homes than we'd ever experienced in police-state SA.

Junk-mail and spam jabbered. Telemarketers and door-knockers irked. A local Esslemont crank solicited genealogy info from me, then another local Esslemont phone-stalked us, until I told them to stop.

< 1996. Esslemonts at Christchurch Cathedral Square.

I wrote to Koffiefontein friend Alleman, asking him about SA.

October 1996. Alleman's dispatch: "SA's doom and gloom. Municipalities almost bankrupt. Money's vanishing into black holes. A black Broederbond, black elite, ensures only chosen appointees (probably family connections) will be appointed to director and government positions. History's repeated. So much for merit, Rainbow Nation, 'no discrimination on race' New SA: more racist and exclusive than apartheid SA. Paradox: Private sector booms."

Alleman's dispatches revealed the price of freedom in post-colonial African regimes, like Zimbabwe, April 2000: Twenty years after a liberation war, thousands of "freedom-fighters" squatted on white -owned commercial farms, demanding white farmers gave their Mugabe regime bought land to natives. Although Zimbabwe was supposed to be independent, president Mugabe said white farmers must claim compensation from former colonizer Britain. There was enough state land to give to blacks without stealing it from white farmers. White farmers emigrated, some to NZ, and life became worse for locals under Mugabe. In 2005, Mugabe's minions demolished squatter-housing, causing about 700 000 blacks to become jobless and homeless. (Christine Lamb, House of Stone, HarperCollins, London, 2006).

The 1971-1972 Rhodesia I'd seen was wasted.

Another friend, soon to emigrate to NZ, wrote from East London: "Nissan will retrench 520 employees - more taxpayers join the unemployed. Projected emigrant statistics don't give anyone confidence in SA. Anarchy threatens, unless more people start paying taxes, stop robbing, murdering, striking African style, but no one responds..."

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See ACC.

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