Thursday, 29 May 2008

Workload Anxiety

Tomorrow morning I should be moving into a new office at work. I am quite happy about the move because the office is a very beautiful one and it is also extremely quiet. I will be sharing it with another colleague.

In spite of the change of office, there are many things that are worrying me at work. During the last couple of months, my workload has increased a great deal. I have discussed this matter with my manager, but I keep being told the same few words: "The company has no intention of hiring any additional staff within our department!"

When I was in El Salvador in early 2005, I remember attending this teacher-training event. The speaker, who happened to be from the US, said that if you have a sandwich which has way too many things stuffed inside, a good deal of the filling will splatter all over the place as soon as you try to take the first bite. He was talking about how some teachers attempt to transmit too much information to their students.

There are times when the same image comes to my mind whilst sitting at my desk. Having worked in insurance for almost two years and being in possession of the CII Certificate in Insurance are definitely important assets, but this does not mean that I have reached a level of expertise which allows me to take on huge chunks of work. Sadly, the management guys seem to fail to understand this point! They keep pushing and raising their expectations in order to achieve goals that were never discussed with the grassroots employees.

I am very pleased about the fact that my company strongly encourages further studies as well as training. Academic training is always positive, but on-the-job training is also extremely important. I must say that even though a staff development hour has been introduced some months after I brought the issue up with one of the directors, I still believe that more time should be devoted to training. Of course, as an employee's performance improves, the amount of training is expected to decrease, but it is ridiculous to expect relatively inexperienced staff to master certain procedures after a couple of demonstrations!

I guess that I am not the only person who dislikes feeling overloaded at work. In my case, I must admit that this issue is gradually taking its toll. On most days of the week, I leave the office feeling totally drained. Coffee helps a great deal to keep me going until around 10:30PM; in its absence, I would probably drop asleep in bed shortly after arriving home!

Given that most of my colleagues leave at 5PM sharp and that we are not paid for working overtime, I usually try to leave a few minutes after the aforementioned hour. Having said this, it takes a bit of time for me to draw those mental curtains that serve to cover the many things that still have to be done at work. I am extremely grateful to have La Delirante in my life since she does a great job at helping me to relax. I really cannot imagine what life would be like without her!

When reading the above, there are some people who might say: "Why not change your job?" My answer to such a question is that even though there might be better jobs out there, I believe that the overloading of employees at work is a central component of the capitalist philosophy. Have we forgotten the famous idea of maximising profits whilst minimising costs??? The typical employer will prefer to avoid employing additional people given that this means denting one's profits. Consequently, the work that would be done in a much better way by, say, three people often ends up being carried out by only one person. The fact that trade union membership has decreased so much during the last few years has not been a positive factor in order to combat this tendency.

Well, I just hope that things will get better... :)

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Living in a Decent Home

A few days ago, I came across another very interesting leaflet published by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist). It was entitled Decent homes for all!

In the past, I had already written about the right to live in a decent home. Having such a home is fundamental in order to allow the members of a particular society to live much better lives. The home is a place where one can focus on relaxing, learning new things, making plans for the future.

In the past, I had lived in situations whereby the threat of ending up homeless was not a remote possibility. At the time, I was working as an English teacher in Madrid (Spain) and my income varied so much from month to month that I could never really be sure whether I was going to have enough money to cover the rent (let alone the other essential items to survive!).

Here in Malta, my wife and I have lived in various apartments. We had spent a few months living in an old maisonette that was in a terrible condition. Sadly, given the amount of money I was earning and the fact that my wife was unable to work at that time, it was almost impossible to rent a more decent place.

When we eventually moved to more decent places, the amount of rent money that had to be spent every month increased. Before moving to our current residence in Ta' Xbiex, we were paying Lm250/EUR 582.34 per month!

Throughout all the time we spent paying rent, I was always anxious about how we would be able to survive if one of us ended up unemployed for one reason or another. My anxiety level was often exacerbated by the fact that the government assistance for the unemployed is not particularly easy to obtain and it is usually so little that it would probably be insufficient to cover a full month's rent and various other fixed expenses.

I am quite sure that there are many people out there who have endured similar experiences. People who have also been tormened by the fear of homelessness. People who feel that they have been ignored by the capitalist governments in their countries. And it is precisely to counter the indifference displayed by such governments that a strong Communist party is required in every corner of the world.

A Communist party in power would ensure that the spectre of homelessness would be exorcised once and for all.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Solidarity Among the Members of the Working Class

On 1st May, I participated in the march along Republic Street. Organised by the Malta Labour Party (MLP), this march in support of Workers' Day is held every year. I was invited to take part as a member of the Zminijietna Left Youth organisation.

After shaking hands with the President of the MLP (Dr Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi) and with Mr Ray Azzopardi, we started the march sometime after 6PM. Carrying a red flag, I walked behind the Zminijietna banner accompanied by my comrades.

As we walked through Republic Street, I noticed that there were very few youths there in Valletta. It seemed as though most of the people present were the MLP loyalists who probably attended the 1st May events every year. There were also some foreigners who snapped a few photos of us as we marched.

I could not help asking myself: where are all those young people who are being exploited by their bosses as they earn little more than the minimum wage at the end of every month? Where are all those young people who are having problems finding a job because they are described as being "overqualified" or because they "lack any job-related experience"? Where are all those young people who want to start a family, but are scared of doing so because of the economic crisis that is also affecting Malta?

It is so sad to take note of the degree of alienation affecting thousands of Maltese youths who constitute a certain percentage of the local working class. By trumpeting the notions of excessive individualism and constant competition via various TV shows, the capitalist media has really managed to put a lid on any type of class consciousness among countless young individuals. As the same TV channels are shown in most entertainment spots, several youths absorb their messages unquestioningly. Caring about oneself and only about oneself becomes the top priority; the community can go to hell!

The lack of class consciousness and the individualist cult are affecting many working-class youths. Yet, they also seem to be influencing the lives of several older members of the working class. As far as the workplace is concerned, the idea of joining a trade union is shunned by countless employees. If there is a dispute between some employees and the management level, it has become fairly common for the other employees to take a totally passive role. If the conditions at work take a serious turn for the worse, most employees seem to have become terribly scared of uniting in order to complain about such matters. As many employers threaten their employees with the spectre of unemployment, a great deal of fear is injected among several workers. Consequently, it is plausible to argue that such fear strongly discourages any collective efforts at work.

Sadly, none of the main political parties in Malta are really addressing these issues. As more and more places continue broadcasting music videos produced by extremely rich individuals who do not have to worry about having enough cash to cover all their fixed expenses, the miserable working conditions associated with the lives of thousands of Maltese workers continue to remain hidden behind a veil.

Long live Socialism!


Friday, 2 May 2008

Malta-North Korea

During the late 1970s and the early 1980s, it seems that Malta was forging a close relationship with North Korea. In his Liberta' Mhedda, Dione Borg had written about the arms treaty signed in the early 1980s between the two governments whereby North Korea had supplied Malta with a certain amount of weapons for free. It seems that some advisors from North Korea had also been involved in at least one local construction project.

It is a pity that very little information has been published about the relationship between Malta and North Korea. Indeed, very few people probably know that North Korea's current leader - Kim Jong-il - had visited Malta during the 1980s to study English. I wish that Dr Mifsud Bonnici and Mr Mintoff could shed more light on this very interesting chapter of Maltese history.