The garbage collectors came around 4.00 this morning. While the truck waits at one end of the road, one worker goes round emptying garbage bins, taking out the plastic bags of household rubbish and putting them into a pile on the roadside.
Hopefully, no bags of garbage leak. Watching this from my darkened window, I notice, he has no overalls to protect his own clothes from being splashed with dirty liquid from decomposing organic waste or smeared with any sticky foul substance that may be on the bags. He has no protective latex gloves, protective foot wear or face mask. He works with bare hands, completely exposed to bacteria and filth in this Covid 19 time.
This frontline worker is often taken for granted, invisible and little appreciated. What is there to celebrate, this Labour Day?
Terms and conditions of work remain minimal and dismal. I’ve heard that provision of safety gear is not the responsibility of the employer, workers take jobs at their own risk, while contractors reap millions on their blood, sweat and tears. Not just the tears of one worker, but those of the wives, parents, children, the elderly and disabled who may be the dependents of that single breadwinner. What is there to celebrate, this Labour Day?
While most are snug in bed with full stomachs or waking to prepare the meal before the Ramadhan fast begins at sunrise, the garbage collectors already begin their work for the day in the wee hours of the morning. None usually see them. But our wheelly bins are emptied of rubbish in the morning and our home environment clean and safe. Nobody but the most desperate would take up this 3D job. Most of us are not so brave.
These degrading, dangerous and dirty jobs are left to the foreign worker, the undocumented migrant, the poorest and least educated of locals. Terms are often unfair, conditions are bad, benefits (if any) are minimal or non-existent. This dismal situation has not changed for decades, workers rights are sacrificed to big money that flows into the tight fists of capitalist employers. The pittance distributed to these who risk life and limb to earn it, is only a small fraction of the profits pocketed. What is there to celebrate, this Labour Day?
In this Covid19 MCO, some stay in safe and comfortable, some stay home hungry or sick, some stay home with fear of domestic violence and abuse, some stay home bored and useless, some get stuck to the internet staving off silence and loneliness. The bright sparks become creative, occupy themselves with imagination and invention. But, what happens if you have no home to return to, sleeping on the street without food or water, unable to get a decent shower to keep clean? A comment came amid the sprite “Happy Labour Day” greetings, “Happy Workers Day, with no work or money” What is there to celebrate this Labour Day?