Second Class Citizens

For the record, I like my job.

Working in the government has given me some sense of purpose. I may not be part of the workforce interacting with the poor or part of a program delivering services but I am in a position where important matters are talked about and discussed. I am in a position where I learn a lot about how things work, how difficult it is to yield a ship with so many parts and functions, how to overcome these difficulties and how to make sense of it all. My understanding is just a scratch above the surface but I also feel that my roots are starting to grow too.

And I am not a perfect employee. I come in late most of the time and go home later than the normal. There are days I don’t go to work because I don’t feel like it. I don’t meet all of my deadlines. I am not the smartest, quickest or wittiest employee. I may not have the best ideas or the most innovative ones. I may not always be the most critical person around.

But I do know this – I am passionate. I want to make things work. I want other people and organizations to see that we can be efficient. That we actually know what we are doing. I want to deliver what is expected of me and more because that is my job in the whole machinery. I take on painstakingly reading through report after report, thinking, correcting, re-sending, convening meetings, seeking commitments, doing other people’s work, running, beating deadlines, etc etc.

Simply put, I care. I care about what we do because every link in the chain is important. We are a machine working for the poor. And a lot of us care. We care enough to put in the extra hours and weekends without extra pay. We care enough to use our own money for communication and transportation costs.

So why is the title of this post “second class citizens”? Because we are not government employees. We work our asses off but we are not government employees. We are “Memorandum of Agreement” workers. We are required to work 40 hours a week, Mondays to Fridays, but we are not given any government-mandated benefits for employees. Our wages are cut by the minute we are late, but we are not given overtime pay for the hours we exceed in a day. We do not have leave credits. Our years in service are not counted as “years in service”. Even if you stay for five years or more, you’ll still be a second class citizen [unless someone retires, dies or gets promoted].

We can perform and outperform and still worry if our contracts will be renewed by the end of the year. Performance is not awarded by anything. Performance merely gives you another year’s contract. Performance gives you more work. Performance gives your regular office mates their bonuses and honoraria.

It’s not just about the money. It’s about unfair treatment. It’s about security. It’s about worker’s rights.

One day I can get sick. One day I am going to have a family who will depend on me. One day I am going to have to take care of a child, who can also get sick. But you can’t be sick because you have no medical insurance to pay for your medical bills. You can’t be sick because you can’t take a day off else you’ll miss a day’s salary. You can’t take a day off for your family. You can’t even retire because you don’t have social security. It makes you wonder, why even stay?

I like my job.

But I cannot stay in a job that treats me like a second class citizen.


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