napakasakit Kuya Eddie – why Pinoys accept physical abuse at work


[nothing as outrageous as the video above, but when abuse is tolerated and accepted at the workplace it opens a Pandora’s boxThanks to South China Morning Post for the vid!]

WE READ and then reread the article about a kabayan Filipino being maltreated and abused  by his employers in the South Island.

It got to the point where we were disoriented, dismayed and finally disgusted that such could happen in this day and age in modern-day New Zealand, but that was on the surface.

You know what? Deep down, I wasn’t really that surprised.

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When I was in Auckland little more than a decade ago, my flatmate told me (and he had no reason to lie) his Countdown (supermarket) supervisor flicked an open hand across the back of his head in annoyance, something that never happened to him in the Philippines.

Goodwife Mahal had barely been in Wellington for more than a month when we both witnessed a food court manager doing the same thing (between a kutos and sapok) across the back of the head of his female cashier while we were waiting for our burger and fries order. We didn’t realize the consequence of the situation (a male supervisor physically assaulting a female staffer in front of multiple witnesses) until long after we got home.

And I myself received a flick of two fingers to the back of my earlobe (called a pitik back home) by a senior mentor a few years back. Granted, the mentor is/was very old school (in his 60s) and was done partly in jest or good-natured annoyance, but I’m not justifying it. It’s always contextual, but anytime interaction between manager and staff becomes physical, you have to take a step back and say, wait a minute, let’s bring the level down a bit.

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What was reported in the article was certainly shocking, but it wasn’t new by any measure. Just two weeks back, another kabayan was forced to leave work after suffering neck and arm bruises just because he walked out of his work area, not that any situation justifies physical harm or abuse from the employer.

So we’re now more or less settled : physical abuse not only exists in the NZ workplace, it’s not rare, and empirical evidence shows it can happen in any industry or region. But an equally perplexing puzzle that comes to my mind is, why do Filipinos like you and me seem to tolerate it? There’s no proof of this, but the fact that it took quite a while for the subjects in the situations above before formally making a complaint, legal or otherwise, is quite astounding. But you and I kabayan know that this kind of reluctance is far more common than anyone will admit, and it is quite common.

These are the reasons I’ve come up with:

Old school respect shouldn’t mean tolerating abuse. There’s a very large variety of age groups among Filipino workers, from the teens, working students, twentysomethings all the way to the very senior, primarily because, well,  there are quite a few  Pinoys in New Zealand, but also because there is no age discrimination in New Zealand. But despite the various age groups, we’re very old-school, meaning traditional, when it comes to respecting and acknowledging authority in the workplace. (New Zealanders on the other hand are generally more collegial and collaborative.) This has its roots in our Filipino traditions for respect for our elders, respect for those in authority, and respect for the head of the family, instilled in us since time immemorial.

Because of the extreme trust we place in those who manage above us, it is prone to abuse, sometimes literally. What can sometimes begin in innocent jokes can lead to verbal abuse, and finally to physical abuse. We Filipinos are only too vulnerable to such, because we frequently avoid arguments and are rarely confrontational, to the point of keeping quiet even when we are clearly uncomfortable.

We accept abuse as part of reparation, because we think we deserve it and are paying for it. Deep down, when we do something wrong in the workplace, we think we deserve to be punished. Again, it recalls an era when we were very young, particularly the baby boomers (born late 1940s to mid 1960s) and Gen X-ers (1970s), when corporal punishment was administered to us without the bosses batting an eyelash.

We think that because we are given some sort of “punishment,” verbal, physical or otherwise, we sort of “pay” for our mistake, and life goes back to normal. This is of course unacceptable. Mistakes are part and parcel of work life, and no amount of effing up justifies a slap, whack or worse punch from your superior. It doesn’t matter that previous bosses or managers used to do it and it was accepted as part of the norm. It is unacceptable at any level and in any situation. Filipinos should realize that, the sooner the better.

Fear of reprisal or dismissal. This is more universal, but Filipinos value job security more than many other Asians, and definitely more than local New Zealanders. Why is this so? Well, the simplest reason is that a lot of us are first generation migrants, and acquiring our jobs took much more effort than our non-migrant colleagues. Aminin man natin o hindi, we prize our employment as much as our permanent residence,  our standing in our community, our relationship with our hosts. it is huge part of our pride, our honor.

Now whenever this job security is threatened in any way, we are ourselves threatened. Never mind that we can find jobs elsewhere, and never mind that we are protected by good NZ laws in our job security. We only leave our jobs on our own terms, and we do everything we can to stay in our jobs. If this involves sacrificing our self-worth,  enduring humiliation and accepting abuse, so be it.

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Again, this mindset can’t be allowed to continue affecting our kabayans’ hearts and minds. It’s our inherent right to stay in our jobs as long as we do our work properly and with integrity. No one can be allowed to bully us out of our jobs, and this includes supervisors, managers, and owners of the businesses we work for.

You can say it in so many words and ways, but in the end it’s as plain as the nose on our brown faces: physical abuse is unacceptable, on any level and in any situation. The sooner we Pinoys understand this, the better for all of us.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

can pinoys be bullies in the NZ work place?


thanks and photo acknowledgment to FFE.com!

TEKA, teka, teka. I can hear you ask, you sure you don’t have it backwards ? You gotta point there, because in my own work site, for quite some time, I thought was bullied a bit here and there before I realized everyone went through the same thing.

Not even thinking about it too much, Pinoys seem more like the victims than the bad guys in a bullying situation because of their physical and social attributes. Pinoys are less than average in height and weight, eager to please, happy to just get along with everybody, always put the team ahead of self, and have very little ego whatsoever.

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But the reality is, anyone who persistently uses power (position, authority, seniority etc) over a colleague that is offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting, covertly or otherwise, may be guilty of workplace bullying.

Pinoys may not be physically imposing or intimidating, but can cause distress to workmates in other ways.  Who among us has not experienced constant sarcasm, being isolated or ignored, being undermined or overloaded in work, and being subject to constant (though subtle) ridicule that can wear you out eventually? It may not cause the obvious cuts and nicks, but the damage inside is as bad, and maybe longer lasting.

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These are typical, but actually authentic sounding scenarios. Any of them ring familiar to you kabayan?

Case 1.  Bhong, a supervisor, made romantic overtures to Denise, a new member of his work   team and was rejected. He responded by telling the rest of the team that the new girl was hard to work with, not a team player, and not worth the attention of everyone else. Coming from a weekend break, Denise quickly realized no one was talking to her, and helping her get adjusted to her new work environment. She ends up resigning before the end of her first year.

Case 2. Ricardo, a new worker, passes the final interview over a more popular candidate. The staff immediately makes this known to the successful applicant by making unreasonable work demands his very first week, forcing him to work overtime just to keep up with the workload, and requiring the new worker to produce work output not justified for someone barely a month into work. The worker survives the probationary period, but the physical and emotional stress takes its toll and resigns as well.

Case 3. Marian, a female worker produces better than average output and becomes the favorite of Dingdong, the manager. She then becomes the subject of baseless and malicious gossip from unidentified members of the mostly-female staff. Marian’s personal life suffers as a result and, with little support from management, leaves her employer shortly.

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In each of these cases no physical mistreatment, or threat of such, was used, but the behavior under present New Zealand law could be prosecuted in a court of law.

More importantly, this type of indirect or “passive-aggressive” behavior is typical across a wide range of workers, in all industries, not the least where migrants do well. Because Asians like us (di lang naman tayo) avoid direct confrontation, we resist or express our conflict in an indirect or lateral manner. Sadly, we would rather resolve our differences by obliquely attacking someone we perceive as undesirable.

Such an unlikely situation, when after coming so far to New Zealand, and working so hard to make a meaningful contribution here, we become the very bullies that we want to avoid. Getting along with everyone at work means exactly what it says, getting along with everyone, with good will to all and malice towards none. New Zealand and our employers have been good to us. Let’s pay it forward!

Mabuhay tayong lahat!

 

 

‘mabuhay ang kalayaan!’ to serve as honor guard 12th June


main room honor guards

Independence Day rites at the Ambassador’s residence in Wellington, New Zealand. I had the additional honor of carrying the flag. Extreme left is H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, KASAGIP Honor Guard Commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve). I am flanked by Miggy Siazon and Ted Lacsamana.

[Note: thanks and acknowledgment to KASAGIP, a Wellington Pinoy self-help volunteer group organized by Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, Rachel Pointon and others; KASAGIP Honor Guard commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve), the Philippine Embassy staff in Wellington led by H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, and many others yet unnamed. Mabuhay kayo!]

IN THE OLD days, kings and lords couldn’t have defended their realms with just knights, swordsmen and men of valor. The best and bravest warriors had to be close to the king to protect him.

That meant that the farmers, builders, bakers and butchers, the humblest of the king’s subjects, all “volunteered” to be first in line, against the barbarian invaders or rival kingdoms.

The tradition of common folk in the army, volunteering for their leader, came to mind our Independence Day (Araw ng Kalayaan) when we volunteered to march as honor guard, bringing in the Philippine national flag, at the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand’s official residence in Wellington.

We are all common folk. I was and am a factory worker; our leader, although he was in the Army Reserve back home, is an accountant by trade and worked in the finance industry. All the others were and are comrades hardly out of university and had just started their jobs in the city.

We met all sorts of Filipinos at the occasion: community leaders, volunteers like ourselves, and kabayan just wanting to celebrate our independence day. In the end, it was just like one informal gathering wishing we were back home in the Motherland. One day we will all come home and be with all our loved ones again.

Happy Araw ng Kalayaan everyone!

 

 

 

why the NZ pinoy community is like a layered sapin-sapin


thanks and acknowledgment to manila-photos.blogspot.com

[Note : It goes without saying, but everything here is Your Loyal kaBayan Noel’s opinion. No research, no stats, just me.  If you’re still reading, thank you po. 🙂 ]

IN MORE than one local movie I saw growing up in the Philippines during the 1970s, someone would burst into a scene shouting, sunog, mga kapitbahay! SUNOG! (fire, neighbors, FIRE!) which would launch everyone in the scene into chaos, running around like headless chickens before an organized effort to put out the fire was conducted. The communication was short but sweet; the reaction instantaneous. A universal response of help for your fellow man, and an instinct towards self-preservation.

Figuratively, there are a few fires facing our little barangay community in Aotearoa, New Zealand. But the response is not as readily discernible as the cinematic fire scene above.

Instead of literal fires, we have social issues that potentially affect all Pinoys here. I picked out three major issues facing the Pinoy community in NZ today.

The first is the use of private educational training institutes to convince would-be kabayan into applying for student visas, in the hope of using a “back door” to residency. (This might’ve been effective before, but not now.) I won’t comment on whether or not this has helped Pinoys, it helps to know that an element of fraud has entered the picture, and there has been enough public discourse on the matter.

The second great issue is the situation faced by many Pinoys already in New Zealand: Is residency available, and how difficult (or easy) is it to attain such residency status? How important are the specific skills possessed by our different kabayan in improving their migrant status? Assuming a particular set of skills brought you to New Zealand shores, will the same skills give you permanent resident status? Are there any other avenues to migration success, like new legislation, amnesty, etc that are available?

Last but not the least is the ever-present issue of racism, overt and subtle, that permeates into all layers of NZ society.  It’s an issue that affects all migrants not just us Pinoys, but it’s important nevertheless.

These three issues affect us all in different ways, and to gain a personal understanding, I thought of how the NZ Pinoy community is divided, for my purposes, three generic (for lack of a better word) classes that view these and future issues in their respective ways.

(Describing or touching on the issues themselves is only incidental, my paksa is just to pigeonhole how we as Pinoys are affected and guessing at how each might react.)

WAGs and family. Or short for Wives and Girlfriends of Kiwis, and immediate family. These are our kabayan who’ve gained entry and residence into New Zealand via the partnership visa, by being wives, partners and fiancees of citizens here. On the surface, they are the ones who would have the least relateability to current issues facing migrants in New Zealand. After all, by virtue of being family, they are instantly considered New Zealanders as well, don’t you think?

It’s not as simple as that. For one thing, they have to live and work here like everyone else, and they have to prove that they are as skilled, dependable and as able to contribute to the local economy of their new home as well as the next guy (or girl). As much as anyone else, Pinay wives and partners of Kiwis keep their eye on the employment and economic pulse, because they have to compete for jobs and wages as most of us do.

Let’s be real: more than anyone else, Pinays who are here on a partnership visa don’t want to be seen as getting a free ride on living the dream in Aotearoa. They are just as skilled, hardworking, creative and results-oriented as any kayumanggi brother or sister. Some of us might mention that they are just a bit luckier than the ordinary Pinoy. Just don’t let any of them hear you. 🙂

The student visa holders. These are the kabayan who got here to study a field of expertise, allowed to look for a job for a certain period here in NZ after graduation, and if successful allowed to apply for permanent resident status.

I’ll be brutally honest with you: these are the kabayan who are affected most by the current issue of fraud in the migrant education industry, because the system is being abused in other countries. In the Philippines we aren’t entirely innocent either, unscrupulous kabayan use the dream of using a “shortcut” pathway to living in NZ permanently via the student visa: it simply isn’t done that way.

Some kabayan have hit the home run so to speak of attaining PR (permanent resident) status but they did it the hard, old-fashioned way. They applied for specialty courses in fields where very few or no New Zealanders are available, acquired the necessary skills, and with the companion Pinoy sipag at tiyaga applied for jobs fitting their new qualifications after graduation. These kabayan richly deserve their migrant rewards because they worked for it.

The skilled migrant pathway users. These are the guys who went through the proverbial eye of the needle. They acquired their experience and expertise in the Philippines, the Middle East, all over the world. They were lucky enough to be in professions that were badly needed in New Zealand. And they were either direct hires or gambled time and money looking for jobs that suited their qualifications before striking gold with a Kiwi employer using their particular talent and skill.

You know the script : Nurse, I.T. engineer, scaffolder, carpenter, builder, caregiver, teacher, all the traditional jobs and professions Pinoys are good at. But there are dozens and dozens of other positions we fill, simply because we are needed in the New Zealand workplace : communications linemen, draftsmen, allied medical professions like x-ray technicians, phlebotomists, physiotherapists; the list goes on and on.

Of course you’d expect the partnership visa holders, student visa holders and skilled migrant pathway visa holders to all be affected by an migrant related issue in New Zealand. Each time a Pinoy is granted entry here, we stake our country’s reputation as honest, hardworking, dependable, grateful, courteous, cheerful workers who only want a chance to live the New Zealand dream of a living wage for an honest day’s work.

It’s just we react a little differently depending on how we got here. The Pinoy community has so many layers, like the multi-colored sapin-sapin. The examples above barely scratch the surface.

It’s up to each of us to show others we deserve our precious Pinoy reputation, and everyday the challenge is renewed.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat! Thanks for reading!

 

looking for kalakbay : shared travel among kabayan


[thanks and acknowledgment to Fly Pal for the video above. Mabuhay!]

MY VERY first trip back to New Zealand from a balikbayan vacation, I sat next to a kabayan who was a nearly-perfect traveling companion on the last leg of an exciting but wearying journey: a five-hour snoozer between Sydney and Wellington.

He made small talk the first hour before we both gave in to fatigue (I’m sure he was also on the 11-hour flight I was on between Manila and Sydney), quieted down after the hot meal provided so that we could take a much-needed nap, and asked if I needed to use the bathroom or stretch my legs (I had the middle seat). I couldn’t have asked for a better kalakbay (co-traveler) if I had ordered one.

But interestingly (or Pinoyly) enough, some kabayan board a flight wanting or needing someone to be with them for a variety of reasons : it’s their first time travelling and are unsure of the different tasks needed to get through their flight smoothly; a lack of traveling confidence, or extreme tenderness or seniority in years finds a helping hand while traveling quite useful.

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Prior to wife Mahal’s first trip to Wellington, she was matched up on the Pinoy e-bulletin board with a mom and two sons joining their dad here. The mag-ina (mom and kids) were on their first trip to New Zealand, first trip outside the Philippines, first trip on a jumbo jet, first everything. It was a lot to take for a young mother full of luggage, the normal and human kinds, and a friendly face was quite welcome.

Without Mahal asking for it, by coincidence one of the boys sat next to her and was her foster son for 12 hours, with all the details to attend to, the real mom hardly minded at all. She occupied herself with minding a 7-year old, helped out a kabayan family, and got free practice as a harassed mom.

The kids are probably teenagers now, almost grown-up young men who won’t even recognize Mahal. But the memories remain, especially with the mom, and future mom.

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Then on our last trip back 2017, we were texted (again through introductions on the New Zealand e-group) that a lola (grandmom) was visiting her kids and grandkids in Johnsonville, a Pinoy stronghold in Wellington region. Would we be kind enough to escort her? In true bayanihan spirit, how could we not?

We had a merry mixup texting with more than one of her Manila-based sons and looking for her, but we didn’t give up. Binilin sya sa amin (she was entrusted to us) so we couldn’t enter the boarding area without her. True enough, she wouldn’t leave her son without seeing us first, and we entered the restricted area together.

Although we weren’t seatmates throughout the entire journey (Manila-Sydney and Sydney-Wellington), we checked in on her, ate together  and spent the stopover (a couple hours) together. From NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International) to Wellington Airport, we were like family.

We never saw her again after family collected her at Wellington arrivals, but the experience undoubtedly will remain with me, Mahal and lola. As should all shared travels between Pinoy kabayan.

Thanks for reading and mabuhay!

4 wackiest things Kiwis have said to me


Note : Sorry for the long absence, a combination of filling in for those using up their annual leaves, extra few days of night shift, and I almost forgot about you Precious Reader. Anytime you see a highlighted phrase, it’s actually a link that leads to previous blogs, if you’ve got the time to visit 2010 Noel, 2012 Noel, and 2013 Noel. Thanks for reading! ]

POOR POSTURE  while lifting heavy loads, lower back pain and getting enough sleep are the things this OFW worries most about, day-to-day or oftener. The rest, or 99% of it, are minor details I can’t worry about too much or just don’t have enough time to dwell on, like (not that I just thought about it) getting offended or hearing things that offend lots of Asians like me.

It’s just too good, my gig here as blue-collar worker working in clean and green New Zealand. I have enough common sense to know that I’ve got a good deal going, and might as well make the proverbial hay while the sun shines.

But I still have ears that hear, skin that’s not always thick, and feelings that get hurt, from time to time. If not for my Pinoy sense of humor and easy-going personality, I would surely raise hell from some of these remarks, but mostly I just laugh it off and make an equally cutting remark to my colleague/s :

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What the eff are you heating in the microwave? it’s making my eyes water!  Some context here. Filipinos heat anything in the microwave oven, often not knowing that the resultant fumes and odor can be overpowering to people who are not used to the same. Examples are heating tuyo, daing, other dried food, spicy food, strong-smelling deep-fried stuff, etc. Factors like the relatively confined space of the lunch room, the spices and vegetables in the dish that when desiccated and re-fried sometimes magnify the smells and pungentness are sometimes overlooked by our kabayan. But when we are caught unawares we sometimes get surprised and offended that our hosts talk about our food this way. Personally I’ve allowed this to happen to me. While I get taken aback, I shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction. If I’m feeling maharot (saucy or salty), I say something like it’s dog meat, wanna taste? which leads me to the next wackiest item…

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Why do you guys (Filipinos) eat dog meat? The roughest, scariest Kiwi would cringe and shrink like a makahiya if I admitted to them that in some parts of the Philippines and among the very politically incorrect (that includes the hungry and starving, who don’t care), Man’s Best Friend is fair game not just as meat for a meal or meals but as finger food (pulutan) when enjoying a round of drinks. This is why I avoid such reality, but somehow or somewhere, when people gather round for tea or coffee and somebody else talks about weird eating, somebody suddenly remembers that this deplorable activity is still done in the Motherland.

Kahit anong paliwanag ko at pagpilit na it’s hardly done in certain places (if at all) anymore, my workmates just can’t believe we do it. Remember, in here (NZ) a lot of people treat their pets better than fellow human beings, cats and dogs are scrupulously and meticulously fed, better (again) than many human counterparts, and in cold weather during autumn and winter, it would be unthinkable to leave you animal companions outside the door, at the very least cat people (what cat owners are called as opposed to “dog people”) leave a “cat entrance” or holes in back doors for their feline friends to use after their nocturnal adventures outside.

Imagine these people, who love their dogs probably more than anyone else, learning that our kabayan EAT dog meat. It’s no big deal, since I would never do it myself, but you can imagine the fun I have explaining why it’s normal back home.

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Do you (or your wife) have a sister / cousin / niece you could introduce ? This is no exaggeration, but after the home grown Kiwi ladies, Filipinas / Pinays are indisputably THE most popular choice as life partners, wives or girlfriends of New Zealanders. There’s not enough room in this post for the reasons, but as a result, despite the proliferation of dating sites and electronic / social media methods, Kiwis are always looking for ways to get to know our kabayan Pinays. Word of mouth, informal introductions, any sneaky way of finding a Pinay are used as effective tools for these love-struck and love-hungry men.

All I can say is, I can’t blame them. I do find the question above from time to time, still startling and funny when it’s actually asked to me. And, as long as I know anyone available back home, why not ?

And lastly …

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You guys speak English quite well. How come? Well, duh. First of all, white guys, namely those from the USA, Canada, UK, and the rest of the British Commonwealth, DON’T HAVE the monopoly on speaking English. After all, it’s been spread far and wide first by the British Empire, and second by the great American project of education and expansion, as far as the Four Winds have taken the latter. So it’s no big surprise that your little brown brothers (or yellow, or black) speak English all over the globe.

But Filipinos have an extra edge. Our experience as an American colony, and then as part of the American Commonwealth, then as a US ally the last century has given us not just Americanization but also a facility in English far beyond any of our regional and continental neighbors.

Honestly, take away our cute accent and our insistence on speaking English our way, and we might even be better English speakers than our gracious Kiwi hosts. We don’t mangle our vowels, we don’t shorten our syllables, and we actually write English better than we speak it! So to all our Kiwi friends, please don’t be surprised if we match your English, word for word, phrase for phrase if not thought for thought. In English, as well as Cebuano, Ilokano, and of course, Tagalog.

Happy New Year, Happy Waitangi Day, and thanks for reading!

 

 

Last page of my 2017 OFW diary: salamat employer, salamat Wellington & salamat New Zealand!


overworked.jpg[Note: so sorry I haven’t reached out lately. Maraming salamat sa pagdalaw, maraming salamat sa pagbasa, at maraming salamat sa pagtangkilik! I’ve enjoyed your company throughout the year, hope the feeling is mutual Precious Reader! (btw just had to use that pic above, thanks and acknowledgment to keywordsuggest.org! ]

THE DYING DAYS OF 2017, literally, are when our factory, as a complex, self-contained and autonomous organism, starts to slow down. People start to use up their leave, sick days suddenly start appearing on the time sheet, and even the supervisors / team leaders start zooming off the site early.

To forestall this, right after the Christmas party somewhere mid-December the boss just rosters a skeleton crew until the second week of January, when most of the staff comes out of its month-long hangover and returns to work, battle-ready with hammer and nails (or sword and shield, if you prefer).

I drew the short straw (or “taya” in Filipino playground lingo), not just because I was on leave Christmas last year, but also because the Philippines being so far away, I asked for an extended leave early this year to attend the wedding of my folks’ very first grandchild, my nephew. Except for the statutory holidays, I would be working through the season.

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Bisor calls me up with bad news and good news on Christmas Eve.

I’m gonna ask you to do something shitty and you can say no, but I’ll be grateful if you say yes.

Swallowing hard, I say what is it boss?

I’m gonna ask you to do midnight to seven the 27th, get a little rest, then come back to do the afternoon shift same day, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed.

Arggggggghhhh. And the good news?

Surprise! I finish the week early, Thursday night.

I wanna say “but boss, that’s ONLY BECAUSE I start the week early, diba?” But I decide to save it for a rainy day. (In short, walang good news.)

“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed” is code for PLEASE, and besides as long as I had the requisite nine-hour rest between night shift and afternoon shift, the double shift was legal. And I liked my new bisor. Still, it was a lot to ask of my half-century old body.

All this time, the company had been doing little favors for me, like facilitating my legal paperwork, paying for tradesman training (although the ultimate benefit was theirs), and regularly sweetening the usual goodies like shift allowance, meal allowance, and other stuff that they were legally committed to anyway but improved on. It was time to give back, Noel.

That meant coming back to work midnight after Boxing Day (a holiday), getting a little sleep and then dragging myself back for the afternoon shift. Tough, but someone had to do it.

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LESS THAN 24 HOURS LATER, just as I thought I’d gone above and beyond the call of duty, comes the acting supervisor (not the one who called me earlier) with another request. Could I work till 2 am my last shift of the year (an extra three hours!), keep the packer company and, as long as I was there, keep the factory running?

The whole week before Christmas I was already on night shift by the way. Adding to the unexpected night shift the 27th, working till 2 am was almost like another night shift. Grrr… Guess what I told acting bisor?

Sure. Just tell my shift partner so we’ll finish the same time.

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It wasn’t just the extra production time needed, of course. Health and safety rules here don’t allow single man shifts (except in specific situations), so the packer working alone, admittedly urgent, was a no-no. And I liked the old packing guy, with his easy-going ways and taking pride in his work. How could I say no?

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Most OFWs and migrants say New Zealand is a great place to work, and I’m no exception. Labor laws are followed to the letter, and any doubt in the interpretation of the law or evidence in disputes are usually resolved in favor of the worker, and as long as you don’t have vices and live frugally, the pay is good.

Despite my status as guest worker, I’m treated as a local. I enjoy the same rights as any other worker, get to join a union, receive all the benefits, and get credited with seniority and recognition like anyone else.

I sometimes take these for granted, and I need little wake-up calls like year-end situations to tell me, nakikisama kami sa yo, pero kapag panahon ng gipitan, makisama ka rin sana.

It’s true that NZ needs its migrants to run the engine of growth, mind its dairy farms and care for its aging population, but those of us already here need NZ just as much. To live quality lives, raise our families and fulfill our dreams. We need each other.

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For the record, the shift went well. The packer, a brown guy like me, from the Cook Islands filled his packing orders, packed a record number of pallets of product for the supermarkets, and we all went home happy.

Happy to have done our bit for ourselves, the company, and for New Zealand, our last shift of the year.

Thanks for reading and happy 2018, mabuhay!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Release at ginhawa : dodging the latest bullet (again)


thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to turbostaff.co.nz!

[Note: Precious Reader is encouraged to read between the lines in this post, as I can’t be too direct today. Maraming salamat po! ]

FOR PRIVACY REASONS, I can’t tell you exactly what I’m quietly celebrating today, but if you’ve heard my ravings and rantings often enough Precious Reader, you’ll know it’s something that’s very important to my migrant life.

THE FEELING OF BEING LESS WANTED. For most of my decade-long gig with my present employer, every work day has been  spent in the security of my job: not many locals want my job, and even those that do, quickly run out of patience and energy training for it. It has less to do with me than the job itself.

Shift work, manual labor, tediousness of tasks and chores and sheer boredom are the main factors why after a month or two of training, Kiwis (New Zealanders) suddenly decide the job isn’t for them and mumble a quick goodbye, or worse, just stop showing up without so much as a by-your-leave.

Which, for my employer and Your Loyal Blogger (ylbNoel), was fine for as long as I showed up on time, did the job, and never complained. Which is what I’ve done to this day, just that my commitment is no longer enough, and, coupled with the current situation (which I’ll touch on below), just won’t be enough reason for me to continue doing the job at the expense of the local population.

CHANGING VARIABLES. An ideal production team, doing three shifts of 8 hours five days a week, should be composed of six workers. For the longest time, and for as long as I can remember, our team has been staffed by exactly that, six people. The very same shortness of staff that has given me a bit of security in my employment has also created the same insecurity harbored by my employer for the same amount of time, the last 10 years. What if someone decides to leave? What if God forbid, an accident befell one of us and prevented us from returning to work long-term? And so on and so forth.

Which returned Boss Employer to the original question, why weren’t we training more, and recruiting more aggressively? With the unemployment, underemployment and plenitude of workers out there, aversion to my work conditions was simply no longer enough reason to not look for potential workers, even though admittedly it wasn’t the easiest job available.

CURRENT SITUATION. Especially because it has traditionally been known as the party of the workingman, the new party in power, the Labour Party, has made it known from Day One that more jobs, better jobs and higher paying jobs are tops on its agenda. You can say it in so many words like poverty alleviation, improving the quality of life and leveling up the basic services, but it can all be summed up in that four letter word : J-O-B-S.

Now, if you wanna create jobs in the wink of an eye, just like that, without too much grief, what’s the easiest, solutions-based and cheapest formula? You don’t have to be an economist or number cruncher to answer : that’s right, take a hard look at those guest workers, jobs that are held by non-New Zealanders, and for good measure give them that waitaminute-what’re-you-doing-in-my-beloved-New-Zealand-anyways stare?

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Never mind that these guest workers have been doing jobs that most New Zealanders would never even think of doing; never mind that guest workers give their jobs the loyalty, dedication and pride over and above, many times over, and never mind that these guest workers pay taxes, do the best they can, and do their share in running the New Zealand engine of growth, day in and day out, 365 days of the year.

For these generic reasons I would have been the least surprised if it would no longer be business as usual in my personal situation. And for a while, when my paperwork was up in the air, I had a distinct feeling that my days in Aotearoa were numbered.

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My fears turned out to be baseless; a mixture of paranoia and insecurity that my host  country wouldn’t do the right thing. Skills plus lack of local interest in job, given a rational and logical rules-based society equals the privilege of working here. 

Notice I used that word privilege. For all the the pluses and good points I’ve worked hard to create, for all the work ethic and loyalty I’ve shown, it is still my host’s choice on whether or not to let me work here. I know that, and for now I embrace it wholeheartedly.

I may or may not be here forever. But I savor every day.

Mabuhay New Zealand, at mabuhay ang Barangay ng mga Pinoy sa New Zealand!

Thanks for reading!

 

the king is dead, long live the king!


LOOK WHO HAD US FOR LUNCH. Cabeza de Barangay de los Islas Filipinas and Secretary-General elect of FIRST Union, His Excellency Amb Gary Domingo and Kasamang Dennis Maga, just orienting us about the new Labour government. Mabuhay kayo!

[ Paunawa: in my five-plus years of blogging, I’m trying something new Precious Reader, albeit just for this post only. I’ll stop “journalistic pretense” or neutral discussion of the issues coinciding with the arrival of the new Labour Government in New Zealand, and tell it like it is, how these issues affect me personally. it’s one of the few perks of blogging, which is using an exclusively personal perspective, which is after all, how we live life, diba? ]

ESPECIALLY  IN countries with a parliamentary government, change can come in an instant. Call a snap election, regret it for the rest of your life. Just ask Theresa May of the United Kingdom. I’m not 100% sure, but Bill English could’ve taken his sweet time before announcing elections, although in hindsight, the writing was on the wall.

I confess I was one of those who were concerned about the ascension of Jacinda Ardern and the Labour party to power, with a little help from Winston Peters and his friends in the New Zealand First party. The only thing worse than a bad government is fear of the unknown; to what depths  a mismanaged economy will lead us, and the backlash against migrants and guest workers that  new government brings.

On the other side of the coin, there is a bukangliwayway  (sunrise) of new initiatives, new policies and ambitious plans to uplift the standard of living of people, renew the drive to preserve New Zealand’s 100% Pure brand, and other schemes that the previous government somehow lost sight of.

No matter what side of the fence you sit on, you can’t help but give the new custodians of government the chance to do well, even though, as human nature dictates, one resists change, embraces the old comfort zones, and is wary of efforts to change the old ways in favor of the new.

Please believe when I say this, Kabayan or Precious Reader because, even with my cozy comforts in New Zealand, I’m still caught between a rock and a hard place, the devil and the deep blue sea if you want. Sure I’m comfortable with a good job, a great environment and a very peaceful host country. But without getting into too much detail, I have no permanence, no long-term status, nothing I can call truly my own as a guest worker in New Zealand. So if there’s any change, and I say I’m wary about it, you might wanna give my words more weight than usual.

Courtesy of a kabayan who now has the ear of the Labour Party and has been working for both Pinoy OFW and resident workers in New Zealand long before the Labor-led coalition, he personally wanted to clear up a few of the concerns I aired in a previous blog (nakarating sa kanya, wow!):

Raising the minimum wage immediately, and up to $20 by 2020. I’m very lucky to be receiving a little more than the minimum wage of $15.25 an hour, especially since for a 1st World nation, it doesn’t leave much after the very basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter. One of the first priorities of the incoming Labor government is raising it towards the goal of the so-called living wage of $20. Many of our kabayan in the South Island are grateful to be working in New Zealand, but are not receiving much more than minimum, if at all.

This sounds partisan, but please don’t believe titans and apologists of big business when they say that kung tataasan nyo ang sahod hanggang di na namin kaya, magsasara na lang kami (If you’re gonna raise minimum wages to unreasonable levels, we might as well shut down the business). In the first place, there is always a balance between keeping your workers happy and keeping the business viable. Wages should always be a factor in maintaining your enterprise, no make that reasonable wages. I don’t want to use my example too much, but our employer negotiates with our site bargaining unit every two years, and encourages non-union members to join, all the better to keep moving forward across the board. It may sound harsh but it’s the reality: a business who can’t pay the legislated wage rate has no business to be in business (and keep using lame puns like this) 🙂

Maintaining realities and priorities in keeping migrant numbers where they are. You will start hearing this from the party in power now, and it makes sense: You can’t stick to a hard number when it comes to net migration. In the first place, it’s the economy, not legislation, that dictates the ultimate number when it comes to how many migrants are needed. Look at Dubai, Singapore and other countries that have readily admitted the migrant reality: a vibrant and growing economy cannot survive without migrant labor. That’s the simple truth. Overall, the two priorities of the incumbents will be tweaking the Skilled Migrant visa pathways (there are many under this general policy) so that only truly qualified migrants continue to come in, and reducing the Student Visa numbers, which admittedly is the area where abuse is rampant. There’s no other way to say that last sentence, nadadamay ang mga Pinoy dahil sa ginagawa ng ibang mga lahi sa student visa, with the cooperation and tolerance of educational institutions here.

Making it easier for those who are already here. I’ve used this phrase often, but I’ll use it again.  There are more than a few guest workers in NZ who have a reasonable expectation of deserving NZ permanent residency, and yet have “fallen between the cracks.” How so ? They are useful enough to be considered skilled, and yet not skilled enough to be considered for residency. They are skilled enough to be granted work visas, and yet aren’t paid enough to be considered for permanent residency. And so on and so forth. Their jobs have disappeared from the so-called long term and short term skills shortage lists, yet strangely enough, continue to be in the rosters of their employers for years and years.

This isn’t fair for them. Because of the Christchurch rebuild, Pinoys (and other migrants) have a chance to get out of their limbo and apply for residency, but shouldn’t this privilege be granted to all who deserve it, New Zealand-wide? Pinoys are highly valued, dependable and loyal workers who in many cases have worked for their bosses, faithfully consistently, and without fail. Labour has made the right noises in this direction, and this will give many kabayan all over New Zealand, this blogger included, a big sigh of relief.

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I have to give credit to the new Labour Government, specifically my kabayan source who so rapidly told me it’s not all doom and gloom under the new order. Thank you very much Ginoong Dennis Maga, Secretary General-elect of the FIRST Union, and an acknowledged champion for workers rights, not just Pinoys, but everyone who works an honest 8 hours a day in Aotearoa. Thanks too Your Excellency Ambassador Gary Domingo for gamely providing such a filling lunch in the process!  Mabuhay kayo!

And thanks kabayan and friends for reading!

kung bakit dehado ang mga bisitang obrerong Pinoy sa pamahalaang NZ Labour*


it’s becoming harder and harder. Thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to thefifthstate.com.au!

IN A PERFECT WORLD, Pinoy guest workers in New Zealand will continue to receive the benefit of the doubt on whether or not they are still needed in the country,  potential applicants will continue to be invited to apply for permanent resident status, and the  parent sibling and other categories under the Family Category visa pathways will soon be reinstated, much to the relief of Pinoy families of both sides of the Philippines – New Zealand divide.

In the land of reality, however, you and I live with the cold, hard facts:  the crow’s feathers will whiten (pagputi ng uwak) before the closed visa pathways will be reopened, any guest workers who’ve fallen behind when the gates were shut will probably stay there under a Labour Government, and the general climate for Pinoy guest workers from today will get a lot worse before it gets any better.

[ This is not professional opinion, just a tiny voice in the roaring wilderness, not being negative but putting up a wet finger to gauge the general direction of the wind. Napag-uusapan lang po. ]

Unless you were in a cave, comatose or hiding under a great big rock, you probably heard that last Thursday the 19th, the New Zealand First party, holders of 7% of the party vote, gave its support to the New Zealand Labour Party, which won around 35% of the seats in NZ Parliament. Combined with the Greens party votes, it was (barely) enough to hold a majority, which gave Jacinda Ardern and the NZ Labour Party its first taste of power in eight years.

By itself it doesn’t mean anything, but (1) a commitment to cut student and work visas by 25,000 to 30,000, (2) a general policy to promote jobs for New Zealanders (a motherhood statement but one that Labour will be held to for sure) and (3) the focus on reducing unemployment, reducing people on the benefit and easing underemployment all point to stress and unease for Pinoy guest workers in NZ.

Let me tell you why:

Caught between the cracks. Under the Essential Skills work visa program, if an employer (1) can’t find qualified locals to work in a particular job or position, (2), finds it impractical to train New Zealanders for said position, (3) can find suitable guest workers for that position, then a Work Visa can be issued to a non-New Zealander.

Many kabayan have gotten jobs this way. It is reasonable to expect them, after a while, to be eligible or qualified to be permament residents especially if their employers continue to hire them, encourage them to apply for another work visa, or even broach the idea of permanent residence in the future.

However, to be invited to apply for permanent residence, the kabayan must qualify under specific Resident Visa pathways, two of which (there may be others, but I don’t know about them) are the Short and Long-Term Skills Shortage List, or the Work To Residence Program. These pathways are independent of the Work Visa program and require different evidence from what the Essential Skills Work Visa require.

Now, under a Labour-led coalition government, where the cutting of migrant jobs and locals-centered job generation is the centerpiece policy, do you think any Pinoys holding work visas can expect a friendlier visa regime? As my wife Mahal sez, mas malabo pa sa sabaw ng pusit.

Remuneration bands. Now, shortly before the elections, the National Party government decided to tweak the immigration policy in a vague, not to mention belated attempt to win “pogi points” (brownie points) from the New Zealand public. Among the measures were the introduction of “remuneration bands” to determine if a guest worker was skilled enough to qualify for future residency. Below a certain amount ($47,000 annually I think) you were considered unskilled. Earn in a certain range ($47,001 to $70,000), you were considered mid-skilled. Anything above a certain amount, and you were considered highly-skilled, and automatically qualified for residency.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this kabayan, but under the special Dairy Worker visa pathway in the South Island, some of our countrymen are already practically running the farms for their employers, from sunup to sundown. Their bosses love them for accepting jobs Kiwis won’t take, love them for dedication, and love them for turning up to work every single day of the year.

But you know why else their employers love them? Because our kabayan are willing to work for wages New Zealanders won’t even consider in easy jobs (farming is definitely not easy), much less in physically and mentally challenging roles. This same reasonable, bargain-basement rates that Pinoys are willing to work for are the same “remuneration bands” that will NEVER let them get within a kilometer of becoming NZ permanent residents. Sad but true.

Now, do you think anything will change in a Labour government? That crow (uwak) better get some serious reading material before it thinks it will become a dove (kalapati).

And lastly . . .

temporarily closing Parent Category. Late last year, as a means of putting its finger in the dike against overwhelming permanent residence applications, Immigration New Zealand (the government office issuing resident visas) temporarily put on hold Parent Category Visas, where obviously parents of permanent residents, three years after the latter were granted resident status, could apply for residency themselves. Word was, anytime next year, the Parent Category could and would be reinstated,

But that was under a National government. Everything changes with a change of government, that’s as clear as day. It’s becoming a tiresome refrain, but under a Labour-led coalition government, can you expect an immigrant and migrant-friendly policy, to the extent of honoring commitments of the previous administration? As they say, all bets are off. Another nice way of saying it would be it’s a very fluid situation, especially for kabayan who haven’t started anything application-wise.  I wish I could be more positive, but the reality is anything but.

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You’ve probably noticed this Precious Reader, but this is more than just dispassionate discussion for me. Blogging is an intensely personal endeavor, whether it’s about a hobby, your religion, or ideology. For me, it’s just about my life, experiences and my gut feel about certain things. It should be obvious why I have strong views about this particular issue, but telling you now would color your own views further, about the issue and about me (for sure, there are always two sides to every issue, I concede). Maybe next time.

Suffice it to say now that for a lot of us kabayan in Aoteroa, these are uncertain times.

thanks for reading, mabuhay!

*or “why it’s against the odds for Pinoy guest workers in a Labour-led government”