The world is no longer surprised when issues on Capitalism surface. It is as if people being treated as merely money-making machines is already the norm. It is as if we all have accepted our fates that we will forever be slaves to this kind of a skewed system. The mere act of thinking about it sends me shivers of disgust. Does Capitalists even have a heart?
March 2nd of 2020, the whole Philippines was shocked by a hostage crisis. A former Security Guard of a shopping mall in Manila took 30 people as hostages, just so he can air out his grievances on his working conditions under his previous employer and uphold justice to his unjust termination. While it is right to condemn this heinous crime, it is even more heartbreaking to witness a noble person like him to resort to violence just so he can level the playground with his Capitalist bosses. It is evident in this story that this is not a criminal issue, but an issue on fair employment. Moreover, even up to this day, it is a known fact that many skilled workers all over the world are treated very poorly compared to the actual value these people bring to the table.
As a victim of the same skewed system, I feel greatly for Mr. Archie Paray, the Security Guard mentioned above. Him and me, together with billions of workers around the world actually exist, and this is our story.
The Promise of a better Life
I was very happy when I learned that I was accepted for an employment in Japan. A full employment abroad is just a difficult opportunity to come by, so without hesitation, I right away packed my bags and moved to Japan. Yes, it would be lonely and scary but it was an exciting new chapter of my life, and I definitely looked forward to it.
At first, I felt very happy and privileged. They offered me a decent (I thought) salary, flew me to Japan for free, gave me a subsidized apartment, and took care of my daily commuting allowance. All was well, but as months passed, I started to realize what was actually going on. I knew that I was employed by a dispatch company, but it was only then that I realized what that actually meant. Dispatch companies provide services of professionals to other companies at a lower price. In simple terms, we are rented out to other companies using cheap labor. This way, the customer company gets the service of the professional at a lower cost by just renting him/her from a dispatch company, compared to actually hiring a full-time employee. The dispatch company, in return, receives the payment from their customer company, and only gives the professional a small percentage of it.
The reality slowly dawned on me. Customer companies never treat their dispatched employees the same way as how they treat their regular employees. I never received language or technical training. My helpless self was forced to plunge directly to a project equipped with nothing but common sense and my previous experiences. I did the same type and amount of work as the regular employees of the customer company and worked twice as hard than them but despite that, I receive not even half of what they earn monthly and not even half of the benefits they enjoy.
It just didn’t settle well with me.
People way back home told me that I was lucky, that I should just be thankful I was given this kind of opportunity. But no, as a professional I knew that I was greatly undervalued. It was clear to me that this is a social injustice. This is greed in the expense of other people.
Despite being treated this way, I can still say that I am way more privileged compared to workers like Mr. Paray, the former Security Guard turned Hostage-taker. I have read and heard stories of many workers in the Philippines in the same category as Mr. Paray. It is said that they are not given a livable wage. That they are not granted proper employee benefits and decent working shifts. If I feel like I am undervalued with my current employment, then that would set workers like Mr. Paray as slaves. All of these compromises from employees just so Capitalists can keep selling cheap labor and continue building their empires. It is heartbreaking.
Employments are equal to a promise of a better life. We submit ourselves to getting an education, taking all those extra certifications, and honing our priced skills, just so we can achieve that dreamed comfortable life. All those sacrifices, and what we find at the end of the tunnel are billionaire Capitalists who see us as nothing but mere money-making machines. This isn’t the fulfillment of the promise they have made.
The only Way is to correct the System
Other people and companies would usually just rebut; If you don’t like the company, then don’t apply! But no. We have to take into heart that not everyone is privileged. Those who are underprivileged will always fall as victims to this injustice just because they are only offered few options. Being flown from from a third world country to work as a dispatch employee in a first world country, I can bear witness that underprivileged people can easily be targetted by perpetrators. Thus, instances like this cannot be helped, unless the system is changed. Referenced from the words of Miss Universe 2019, Zozibini Tunzi; I think it is time that we stop asking the public what to do and start asking perpetrators (Capitalists) to do better, to be better.
In cases like Mr. Paray, it is always right to correct labor rights issues. A livable wage should be a right. Proper employee benefits should be a given. A decent working shift is a must. It is such a condemnable act to treat people like machines, because we never are.
In my case, I have to admit that it is trickier. The very existence of dispatch companies, for me, is just not right. Their mere existence will always promote cheap labor and, in a way, will rob countless professionals chances of being employed by decent companies. I maybe just be a lowly professional from a third world country, but I do know that the value given to employees should be equal to the actual value they create.
This is the part when people would say, “Duh you are too idealistic. The system will never change. This is just business-as-usual.” I’m just going to snap my fingers in Z formation, because history taught us otherwise. In the year 1811, the United Kingdom abolished Slave Trade. During the early 2000s, countries in Europe started to put up an 8-hour working day to make working conditions humane. Recently, a livable wage for the minimum wage is being pushed all around the world. Therefore, the system can be changed when we passionately fight for it.
It is a sad sight when we choose to just bow down to Capitalism as if they are God. These people have gotten away with abusing skilled workers for a very long time now by labeling it as “Business.” If we succumb to this kind of system, we will fail to save not just our generation, but the next generations to come. Again, the system is changeable. All we have to do now is change it.