Dignity of the worker: Memories from my childhood
Make A Difference Bee
There is something sweet about enjoying the fruits of one’s sweat.
There is honour in reaping where one has sown.
For this reason workers wake up early every day to catch the train, bus, kombi or whatever they use as a mode of transport to get to work.
People work hard daily because they know that if they do not work, their families will not have enough to eat.
They know that not working translates to poverty.
I am referring here to honest, law-abiding workers of this country, who still take pride in putting in an honest day’s work.
Those people who can serve a company loyally for years without ever stealing or short-changing their employers.
When I was a girl, I could see an elderly man riding his bicycle to work the same time daily for 15 years.
I later discovered that he was a messenger.
He loved going to his place of work, polishing his shoes and bicycle daily.
There are many workers who still value their jobs as much today. Whether there is still dignity in working, however, is another matter.
The thought crosses my mind daily as I pass through some sections of Mbare on the way to work.
In Mbare, people start moving as early as 4am with some going to place orders for vegetables and produce that they sell throughout the day.
At the popular Siyaso, others can be seen joining different wires and pieces of metal.
Vendors can also be seen spreading out their share of used and new clothes, which often includes underwear.
As this happens, you also have the public transport operators, private motorists and haulage truck drivers also jostling in the maze of traffic so they can get to their destination — which is their different places of work.
I am not privy to how much is earned from all these different trades people engage in, but clearly they would rather work, even if they take home peanuts.
Everybody derives true value and satisfaction from working and getting rewarded for it.
That is why, even in these difficult times, where jobs are hard to come by and workers often go for months without getting paid; many still do what they are supposed to do — work.
That is why there are men and women, who sweep someone’s yard, look after someone’s baby, drive around someone, clean toilets, and pick rubbish from the streets as well as several other tough and non-glamorous jobs.
Even in these days when we have some people awarding themselves vulgar salaries and bleeding companies dry, the workers do not boycott duties.
They still trudge along because working is what a person does. Others have even become their own employers, after realising that work is not going to just come on a silver platter.
That is the story prevailing at Mbare Musika and many other places in the country where daily, thousands of men and women are already up and running in the early hours of the morning.
It is truly amazing that whichever direction you come from in the mornings and in the evenings, the city does not go to sleep. People will be working. Whether the work involves selling airtime recharge cards, take-aways, fixing someone’s hair or nails, selling cars, cooking sadza by the roadside, selling newspapers, speaking on radio or penning an article — it is the workers’ sweat that keeps the country going.
This is why I could not help but think of the plight of the worker for this instalment.
Many workers today are not secure. They lose jobs just like that.
Several companies have closed shop since the year started.
Many others are just hanging on by a thread. Salaries are poor; and very few are paid based on experience and qualifications.
We have teachers, nurses, doctors and several workers in the civil service whose incomes are just but a mockery when held against the important and difficult jobs they do.
Many workers today take jobs beneath their qualifications and expertise because they know that it is better to earn something than nothing. Some have taken the route of self-employment as Government always encourages but the going has not been easy. The capital to start a business does not come easy.
I could not help but think of how critical is it to retain the dignity of workers as Zimbabwe joined more than 80 countries across the world to commemorate Worker’s Day on May 1.
Unlike the elderly man I saw as a little girl, most workers commemorate the day now amidst rising confusion and uncertainty about what the future holds for them.
Many of them commemorated the day without a single clue as to when their pay will come.
Many more commemorated the day without any idea where school fees for the children for next term will come from.
While that man on the bicycle from my youth, before ruinous western sanctions took their toll, owned a house and put his seven children through school from his job as a messenger, today a whole host of workers commemorated May Day with no clear plan in sight of when and how they will ever own a house so that their families do not have to move from someone’s house each month.
Many others commemorated the day holding on to useless medical cover, which does not guarantee them access to health services, as was the case in the day of this messenger.
Others used the opportunity created by the day to do some side-business of selling this and that, as workers have become known for.
Some were thinking of the many years of service they put into a company only to walk out with nothing in severance pay.
Surely, after putting in years of work; there must be a difference. There is need to do some homework on the part of all stakeholders involved to bring back the dignity of workers? Surely, a difference will come out of it?