I was 23, just finished my honours degree and was doing my master in Labour law part-time. During this period I found a job doing recruitment, admin and ‘legal’ work for a Labour Brokerage in Port Elizabeth. At first I really enjoyed the challenge, but soon I realised it wasn’t the fact that it was a challenge I was just enjoying having a job and paying my own bills. I was treading water while studying – buying some time before I would really have the time to put into my idea of a dream job.
It didn’t take long for me to realise that I desperately needed a new job, not because I wasn’t being paid enough but, because, I basically I was everything that was wrong with the world. I read a contract one day and saw the amount we were taking off labourers wages as the agent… 30%! Aaaah what have I done?! Why was I doing this? I am part of the problem – NOT the solution! Despair.
My reason for going from my modest BSocSci background into Law – was to be able to assist the people who need protection in our labour market. Not the people who own the means to production, but rather those who have to sell their labour in order to survive. Where’s the justice?? Certainly not at a Labour Brokerage who create employment but then screw each worker out of a living wage. Wow. I had a big problem.
I really needed this job – it was something in my field (though on the opposite side of the spectrum), I was learning a lot and, honestly, I had rent to pay. That being said – these reasons weren’t good enough, not for me. That very day, (the day I saw the 30% ‘fee’) I walked into my boss’s office and resigned.
No job to go to. One month’s salary. Trying to find work in the Eastern Cape. My parents. My apartment. Will I have to sell my car? You ungrateful chop! Oh god! A terrible decision – I should have waited, found another job first. I could have stuck it out a bit longer. Silly, silly girl. Morals don’t put food on the table!… These thoughts were swirling around my head for days. So – I told my friends and family that I was retrenched. RETRENCHED!? I was afraid they would all tell me how stupid I have been and that I must get my head out of the clouds. “Stop being so naive…” – a line I have heard my whole life! So I lied. To everyone. Even my best friend. It will be fine…
The first month was great – job hunt in the morning – BEACH all afternoon – but soon my money started to run out and I started to panic! I spent 3 (almost 4) months without work, very little money and feeling pretty bleak with myself indeed. I couldn’t tell anyone now that I lied about being retrenched… could I? Could I ask my parents for money? NO. No ways! What a mess.
When I had nothing left in me – I found a job. (The day you give up completely, is when the world gives in). It was a great job working for a bargaining council where I helped teachers with legal advice and set up hearings for them against the Department of Education. I had to move to Centurion. It was great – but it wasn’t the job! The Job I needed! I worked there for a year, got fed up and now I work for an NGO. I have never been happier in a job than I am now.
I believe that resigning on that day changed my life. I regretted it and gave myself a very hard time a about it initially. I know now that had I stayed at the labour brokerage for any longer, it would have been a serious compromise – and I am proud to say I will never sell my soul for money (which they offered me more of when I resigned). I want to do a job which means something. Not only to me. But to other people too – the people I get to help. It’s all I’ve ever wanted and now I have it! Marilyn Monroe said it the best: ‘I don’t want to be rich – I just want to be wonderful’.