[In picture above is kabayan and dairy worker Socrates Mallari, who I hope doesn’t mind my use of this pic, he is helping turn the wheels of the New Zealand economy! Thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to Socrates and stuff.co.nz, happy mothers’ day to all!]
I LOVE my job, despite and not because of what I do. My job validates me, gives me dignity, and gives me a chance to pursue the Pinoy dream of a better life in a foreign land.
Down to the details, it’s a job that involves considerable manual effort, physical activity (pareho lang ata yun), shift work, (night shift and afternoon shift, meron ding morning), going on fifth gear when something’s wrong in the factory. The speed and reaction time is crucial, because for the whole factory (four levels), only two of you monitor everything, and keeping the factory running is the first and only priority, but when everything’s cool, OK naman.
Because of the migrant mentality where you feel you have to do equal or more of your share as a perennial outsider, I need to foster a brutal work ethic. Never late, never absent, first in and last out (within reason), and always volunteering for extra work and covering up for staff on leave. It’s the way it is, and everyone covers for everybody else, anyway. You just don’t wait for the request to become an order.
But not everyone always feels the same way, especially the katutubo or those who feel a little entitlement in the Land of the Long White Cloud (New Zealand’s name for itself). They don’t do anything not in their job description, don’t want to be held accountable for anything that doesn’t involve their work (fair enough), and the first question they ask when requested to do something beyond the usual shift is “What’s in it for me?” Ito naman ang nakasanayan nila bilang katutubo or locals, and beyond a few mutterings, no one begrudges them for that.
Ang problema nga lang, even as they look mediocre on absolute terms (in a vacuum), migrant workers, not the least of which are Pinoys, make them look worse (if that’s at all possible). No one to work the (urgently needed) extra shift? I’ll do it, boss! Someone needs to help out in packing (a different department)? Count me in boss! Could you come a little earlier to cover for the previous shift (who’s AWOL and nowhere to be found)? Consider it done boss! You do these things for no other reason than you earnestly feel the need to give back, and hopefully the positive deed will be paid forward, eventually back to you. The locals grumble and mutter, but what can they do? Their free time and weekends are sacred to them, and everybody respects that.
Which is why, out of every 10 offers to work overtime, whether it be on a regular shift (extension) or weekends (Saturday mornings) as long as I can remember I accept around 9. The money’s good, but it’s a concrete manifestation of your willingness to go the extra mile, especially on an unexpected turn of events. (extra orders, down time, when maintenance eats into production time, and so on and so forth).
I sometimes pretend to make a big deal out of it, bitch about having to work when I could be resting (I have lower back, gout and chronic sleep apnea issues which wife Mahal has put up with brilliantly), but in the end I almost always say yes. Saying no is not part of the equation.
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Similarly, another migrant in our workplace has infected nearly all of our production team with his durability and iron man attitude. In the eight years I’ve known him, he has called in sick a grand total of ONE time, and he was so sick we were all concerned if he needed hospital care (he is a confirmed bachelor and lives alone).
So, colds and coughs, feeling a little bit under the weather, hungover after a “bender “(walang katapusang inuman might be an accurate translation of this Kiwi-ism), etc might be enough for somebody to call in sick, but not for our production team. You know you’ll eff up the shift schedule, there will be people before and after your shift who will cover for you, but unless you really feel unable to come to work, you don’t want to impose. Just as they don’t want to impose.
I don’t know if this is unique to the migrant work ethic, I would be naive to think so. But it certainly comes up together, being a migrant who more than wants to pull his weight at the workplace, and the harder attitudes of trying to do more, and put in an honest day’s work almost without fail.
Throughout my gig at my workplace, I’ve been told: Use your sick days when you need to. Don’t feel as if you have to work beyond the pale, every single time. Get a life. Achieve the work-life balance.
I can do all of those, but in keeping with my migrant mentality, I internalize what the American philosopher and psychologist William James said about work, or activity: Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.
Thanks for reading, mabuhay!
*O.T. = overtime. Sickie = a Kiwi term for using sick leave.