Archive for the ‘labour’ Category

Hopefully all the lovely young people will get a job this long vacation. In my teens, I worked at selling shoes, wrapping presents, even teaching. All of us passed through Aunty Ermine’s drug store on Bay Street- “Colonial Pharmacy’. What a name of its time.

They do not make drug stores like that anymore. It was more of an apothecary with the chemist upstairs in a dark and odoriferous space measuring, mixing, titrating and shaking up small bottles of potions. Aunty Ermine had a presence, big laugh and apt to just shout real loud if we were moving too slow, leaving a customer unattended. Not letting the cash register give off its keeching noise.

Anyways, the point is that there was not too much interviewing going on for these jobs and certainly no second interviews.

But times are different and the job market for lovely but relatively unskilled young adults a challenging one. Having done my fair share of interviews, here are some few tips:

1) You need to transmit a fine psychological balance, an interview and job readiness if you like. So be alert, be formal yet at ease with yourself.

2) There is no getting around it. Presentation is an issue. So yes self-expression is all well and good. But you know, leave the piercings at home. Neaten up the hair (young men). You want the interviewer to get a good sense of your character and competence. Minimise the distractions.

3) Dress right. NO bra straps to be on show. Actually that one just goes for life period.

4) Watch the body language. Do not slouch. Arms crossed, not good. Transmits someone who may be closed or inflexible or even contentious.

5)  A firm handshake is important. Ladies, none of that limp, character-less hand inaction. Neither, on the other hand, over-pumping and aggressive squeezing.

6) Avoid the slang and near-cursing. No, crap is not an interview word “As in I do not believe in that crap”.  You and the interviewers are not pitching marbles together; this is language for your friends on the beach.

7) Do not get defensive. If the interview is not going well, or it is apparent that you are not a good fit for the job, relax and just learn from the experience of the interview.

8  Do not ask trite questions at the end. Like,” so what does your organisation do?” (see #9)

9) Be prepared. Have a good idea what the job content is, what the organisation does.

10) Avoid over-talking when asked questions. Keep your answers to the point.

11) Be polite and positive throughout the interview. Make eye contact. At the end, thank the interviewer for the opportunity.

12) Persist.  Let your ego take a holiday.  Do not feel bad with job rejection.


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Making Housekeeping Decent Work

Working in isolation, housekeepers are notoriously under-paid and under-valued. They tend to be defined as unskilled or low skilled. Classified in occupational statistics as elementary workers, they are vulnerable to economic abuse.

Perhaps the most salient contributor to this vulnerability is that they are women doing what we understand to be women’s work. Carrying the burden of care for families,  these workers have or perceive that they have few other income generation options. Many are undocumented migrants, sending remittances back home to support children and parents.

So the combination of low value status and the need for money to support others creates the environment for exploitation. Also the absence of regulation of the employment relations contributes to violations. There are countries where persons who provide domestic services are not even defined as workers and are outside the umbrella of labour protection. In many countries there is no legislation setting out the minimum wage or minimum terms and conditions. And neither are employers obligated to pay social insurance in the event that the worker becomes ill or is laid off.

This is a global problem, the awfulness of it dependent of the labour market opportunities for women- lesser opportunities, greater oppression. In Haiti, there is the phenomenon of the restavecs (stay with) workers who are on call 24/7, more or less. That is another feature of this work, how women who ‘live in’ as it is referred to in Trinidad can be paid less than the person who does 9-5, the theory being that board and lodging are built into the wage, as if the housekeeper does not maintain a household elsewhere, as if the fact that they are ‘live-in’ does not bring increased demands on time and labour.

Clotil Walcott, a Trinidadian woman of the greatest energy, vociferousness and perseverance, advocated for many years to get greater protection and legal recognition of domestic workers in that country. Hers was a fight for decent work for domestic employees, taken to mean productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Today, in no small measure due to her efforts, Trinidad and Tobago has a law setting out minimum employment protections- minimum wage, meal and rest breaks, holiday and sick leave entitlements and mandatory employer contributions to national insurance. This covers not only domestic workers, but other workers who have traditionally worked in conditions of insecurity- shop assistants, gardeners, gas station attendants etc. See here a tribute to Clotil written by Rhoda Reddock.

I thought of Cotil and her daughter Ida Leblanc, who carries on the struggle, as I watched this Trinidadian advocate on the Stephen Colbert show. Enjoy.

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