Last month the company I slave for celebrated making 1 Billion Rand. Not a Million, 1 Billion. And not like the whole company with all its separate branches. No, just our branch. And they reached the billion mark exactly 1 month and 1 week earlier than the last financial year. And guess how they made us celebrate this huge achievement…
Not with a day off. An office party. A braai or something fun or cool. No. We celebrated with cake. And no, not a fancy cake from an upper-class cake shop. Hell, not even a big enough cake. It was a cheap dry piece of shit cake from a popular retailer. And it wasn’t even big enough for everyone who works here. The people who work in the office got a small piece of cake. Everyone working in the pack house got stale cupcakes. Now usually I wouldn’t complain about getting some cake. But it kept bothering me. I felt so cheated. And I still do actually.
5 days a week, for some 6 and for others 7, we drag ourselves from our homes, some traveling from far through e-tolls, potholes and traffic to come here and help a company grow and make millions and millions while we have to settle for minimum wage and some dry fucking cake when they reach 1 billion. And we’re supposed to be happy? We’re supposed to be oh so grateful to have a job?
Where is our cut of the money? Give us a raise. Why not get us better computers for the office or Wi-fi at least? What about a canteen that actually produces edible food so that we won’t have to spend 15 minutes of our 45 minute lunch break driving to a store and back? Fuck it, I’ll even take a new chair. One without a broken arm rest. And I’m not going to join a fucking union to get these things. But I’ll get to that later.
Why does a company make its employees feel so alienated? So worthless. They go on and on talking about how they wouldn’t have been here if it weren’t for us but then why don’t you fucking show it? It’s like being stuck in a loveless marriage. Where you just stay together because it has become a habit. It’s safe. Even though you can feel it swallowing every ounce of happiness you have.
That Bukowski Quote of “How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 AM by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so.” Keeps playing over and over in my mind and I couldn’t agree more.
But we can’t just do nothing. We have to work or else we won’t survive. And if this is how I feel then I can’t imagine how it must feel for all the employees down in the pack house. 80% of them were born and bred in Limpopo where they didn’t even have running water or sewage systems. They moved here to Tembisa, leaving family and friends behind to get a job at 1 of the many pack houses here and to have a better life. But they don’t even know that they are being exploited by the system. Our education is a joke. Well, it has been a joke for the last few years. Let me give an example.
They come here wanting to be a picker. A picker is one of the most important aspects of this business. A shop orders stock, then it is the pickers’ duty to go and pick the stock and make sure that it is loaded on time. But they do it for very little money. And they also can’t manage the little money because they never had any to begin with and the school system has failed to teach them that. So half way through a month they have to loan money just to pay for transport so that they can make it to work. Now when they want to become a picker they have to write 2 tests and do an interview.
Test 1 is where there are 2 columns. The first column gives the product description and column 2 is where they ask for the picture number. With the test they receive an A4 card filled with 12 products on each side. So they have to look for the product on the card by using the product description. And fill in the picture number that matches the description.
Product Description: Picture Number:
Prepared Pumpkin Bag. 1.
In this test the average score is about 20 out of 24. Which is 83.33%. Which is good. But I have found a few guys getting 40% or something equally shit. Now keep in mind that these men have Matric and keep in mind that I am not very good at describing the test to you without the actual test or card before you. But let’s continue.
Test 2 is a straight forward maths test. Now here’s the thing. I failed Maths in Matric. I am okay at basic maths and Sudoku puzzles but don’t give me trigonometry or shit like that. I will just get confused and hurt myself. But this test is insanely easy. Section A of the test is just where you have to fill in missing numbers that run in series. I will give you an example of the hardest 1.
782 | 783| 782| 784| 782| ?| ?| 786| 782| ?|
That’s it. You just have to fill in the missing numbers where the question marks are. If you struggled, the answers are 785, 782 and 787. If you got that wrong, you shouldn’t be ashamed because you are a victim of a failing educational system too.
Now, how the marking works in that section is you have to get all 3 missing numbers right to get a point. There are 5 questions like that so the section is a total of 5 points. The average for that section is 3 out of 5. With almost everyone getting the above question wrong.
Section B is basic maths problems. Plus, minus, multiply and divide.
It gives you the question and then gives you 4 possible answers. Also known as a monkey puzzle. So effectively with every question you have a 25% chance of getting it correct. Here’s an example of 1 of the hardest questions.
1kg + 5kg + 17.5kg =
a.) 22.5kg. b.) 23.6kg. c.) 23.5kg. d.) none of these.
The answer is C.
I would say overall for test 2 the average is 40%. Which doesn’t sound bad. But it is when you have the test and go through it and realize how astonishingly easy it is. I just want to remind you that I failed maths and I know that this test is fucking ridiculously easy.
The biggest problem with test 2 is that most of the people can’t finish it in time. The test is 6 minutes long and has 20 questions. Which works out at about 18 seconds a question. As a picker you have deadlines to finish picking stock so you have to work out your plan very quick to start picking so that you can finish and move on to the next store because they are already waiting for their delivery. That’s why there are only 6 minutes but believe me, it’s more than enough.
And then there are the interviews where we have to ask them idiotic questions like “If you have a cellphone, how do you make sure you have someone’s right number?” Now, the right answer would be that you would call the person to make sure it is the right number. And some of them get that right. But, then you get answers like “I can’t call because I do not have airtime.” Or you just get a blank stare and have to repeat it to them 3 times before getting an interpreter.
If you don’t see this as a huge problem then there must be something wrong with you. The whole system is fucked. I know there are exceptions to the case. Maybe the guy is just slow. But he has a Matric certificate? Has it become so easy to attain such an important document that can open doors for you? Or rather, use to open doors for you. The fact is, The government doesn’t want the people to be educated. That way they can keep brain washing them into voting for them by giving them a food parcel a few weeks before an election while the memory is still fresh.
And then the companies take advantage of them because they can pay them almost fuck-all and the guys will be happy and at the same time they are holding up there side of the BEE quota. Actually, even if they were smart they would just be happy to have a fucking job because a job is so hard to come by these days. Have you seen our unemployment rates? So the government and the companies take advantage of the blissfully ignorant people of our fair country. But no, that’s not all.
Then you get those amazing people in the unions who claim to be for the workers. First of all, unions shouldn’t exist in the first fucking place because companies should just be fair and employees should be rational. If I get a job as a General Assistant then I shouldn’t expect to get paid R12,000 a month. But the unions find it mighty easy to convince people to join and that they should be making that. Like, when they get a company to agree to the % wage increase for a position they put forward then all of the employees in that position have to join their union.
Why? Because they will benefit from the % wage increase too. Even if some employees were happy with the % the company proposed and didn’t want to be a part of the union, They now have no choice. It’s a gang mentality. And with every annual salary increase comes an increase in Union membership fees. Smart huh? And then of course some unions work with some political parties so when you join the union, you have to vote for the party they are affiliated with. Also there are incidents like Marikana. We’re all fucked.
And our managers don’t even care about us. There was this one employee who was a cleaner. And the Ops manager wanted him to be a picker because for a while the pack house was short on pickers. So I agreed and asked the guy to come and write the test (I just want to point out that I am not an HR. I am a payroll clerk. But because of the heavy load of work and the huge amount of employees here at the company some HR responsibilities are mine).
Needless to say, he failed it. Badly. That answer of “I can’t call because I do not have airtime.” Yep, was him. So I sat down with the manager and told him that he can’t be a picker. He didn’t pass the test. And he told me that we should just ignore the test and make him a picker anyway. To which I replied “No”. Which is a brave move considering that this guy could easily get me fired. The reason why I said no is because I thought further than the business. I thought of the poor guy who just failed the test.
Say for example, we make him a picker. And he fucks up. He’ll get fired. And then what? He has a family to care for. He now has a dismissed on his CV and people won’t get a good reference from us. So what will he do? Turn to crime? He has a job in which he is currently good at and if he really wants to be a picker then he can come write the test again in 6 months. After telling this to my manager he just shrugged. That guy is currently a picker and is already on his extended final warning.
So what is there to do? We’re that drunken slutty girl at the party who everyone is taking advantage of. The companies do not care about us. We’re just the mouse running on the wheel keeping the light bulb glowing. It’s clear as day that the government doesn’t care about us. And the unions don’t care about us. Nobody cares. But they pretend mighty hard to that they do. And we the people can’t stand together because we have issues with trivialities like race, religion and sexual preferences. Once we get that out of the way, maybe we could stand together and make things work.
Demand more jobs and better pay and work conditions. Demand better education. Because like most people I know, we can’t afford to go to a University to get a degree. And we’re also not smart enough anyway. Some of us come out of poor families and backgrounds.
So we just have to keep working. We have to fight or just float along in this little thing we call life. Just surviving and working our fingers to the bone so that our children would have a better life than us one day. Never retiring, just slaving away till the day we drop dead.
What do you think? Do you agree with me? Or do you disagree with me? Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Feedback is appreciated and welcome here. If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, feel free to share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Remember: Sharing is caring after all.
Watch this space for regular updates in the Opinion category on Running Wolf’s Rant.
Pretorian. Wordsmith. Curious Creature.