[ NOte from NOel : A blessed happy birthday to a cherished friend I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting for nearly 30 years, Dr Gerald M So, and a belated happy birthday to one of the greatest acting talents in our high school Passion Play, Mr Edison Ongpian ! Thanks in advance for reading ! ]
IT’S PROBABLY socially awkward to congratulate oneself or encourage the same, but yehey and kudos to me anyway for a minor milestone in my journey of accidental migration, no applause necessary : an additional 48 cents to my hourly rate.
Actually I knew it as soon as I passed a training module in my guild exams, and although I wasn’t formally included in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the employer and the employees’ union, the handbook for employees told me that that was the reward, on the way to being certified in my trade. Very modest reward it was, but a reward nevertheless.
To most in the Third World who are used to zeroes and generously placed decimal places in all forms and shapes of prices and monetary designations (e.g., yen, pesos, baht, NT dollar, etc.) 48 cents doesn’t sound like much, in fact it sounds positively puny (whaaaat? not even half a dollar !?) but to me it is more than all right.
In the first place, the new CBA (to which I officially wasn’t a party to but was considered saling pusa as the mill manager gave any prospective benefits to non-union members) provided for a three percent and two percent increase in our hourly wage rates, respectively, on Years Zero and One from the CBA signing. That translates to 30 and 20 cents approximately added to my obrero‘s payslip, not something I’d throw a party for but also better than nada, especially since I didn’t ask for it, and therefore wasn’t expecting it.
Secondly, my miller’s exams were a maze of engineering, food industry, health and safety, not to mention UK-oriented facts and figures that I was supposed to either memorize or understand and apply to sets of practical problems that assumed a 46 year old Asian like me (they all assume Asians are good with formulas and numbers, yikes) would understand and solve with their eyes closed.
Surprise, surprise, I chose the path of least resistance and tried to use memory work on things I only half understood, only to realize three-quarters of the way that if I couldn’t even remember what I had for dinner two nights ago, how was I supposed to burn in my memory the working diagram of a Buhler reversejet dust collector without which no modern, self-respecting flour mill could function?
To make a long story short, I passed the two hour, ten-question essay type module by the skin of my teeth and the reward was, on a weekly basis, 20 dollars added to the sweldo, which keeps body and soul together.
On the heels of an all-time high versus the recession-weakened, trillion-dollar-deficit ruined Obama dollar, those NZ cents mean a lot to me. The overtime rate also goes up, and in the case of future increases, if the unions agitate aggressively enough, the base with which to apply percentage increases broadens a bit.
Just for additional perspective, a weekly grocery bill without the frills (ice cream, alcohol and sweets, almost all of which I consume on my own) comes to about $75-$100, the petrol costs about $10-$15, and the monthly energy bill during the winter months less our flatmate’s share is $200-$250.
For a few reasons this might be deceptive. The food bill excludes rice, which the flatmate and I buy alternately for everyone’s use; because the flour mill I work for has a bakery for a sister company, we get free bread twice a week; I bike to work unless the rain or hail make it all but impossible to do so, and fuel use is kept to a minimum.
It’s not a kingly wage but it’s a lot better than minimum, with esposa hermosa’s contributions it pays the bills and I can still save a few pennies for a rainy day. Most of all, the earnings allow me to send baon home to the kids, and anything left over after all that I’ve told you, as you might expect, is a bonus.
Thanks for reading !