I’ve been to TVNet-25 this morning. I came in time of one documentary showing textile and garment workers in Shri Lanka. I think the situations shown of the Shri Lankan workers are no different to that of Filipino garment workers I’m familiar with.
I used to work for one local shirt manufacturer. No, it was all construction work, freelance, mostly carpentry and general construction, like cabinets, shelves, repairs and renovations. My asking rate used to be high than others but, glad to say, everyone I worked for usually called me back. You see, I employed power tools that ordinarily freelancers didn’t have. Power tools finished the jobs faster and easy on me, too. Besides, I was cheaper, actually, compared to the times when they hired formal contractors. Yeah, I was sort of cut throat in a dog-eat-dog world.
In that garment factory, only my boss and his secretary seemed to know my rate. I learned how much workers, mostly females, were being paid. And, I kept it a policy to smile away any curiosity about my rate. I guess I hated to tell any of them about the big disparity. I could probably be hurting them if I told.
Anyway, I remembered the printed shirts made there were sold around P120.00 apiece or U.S. $ 4.60 [@ $1 : P26] locally, when I remembered the types sold for $20.00 per in Guam at around that time.
The Shri Lankan report said that for every four  Euros worth of garment sold in Europe [Germany], Shri Lankan garment workers’ sector gets four  cents or 1 percent. One  Euro of it, or 25 percent, goes to Advertising. One Garment worker said she was earning an equivalent of about 50 Euros a month including long hours of overtime, not minding the despicable working conditions and yes, alleged abuses by supervisors that other workers interviewed were also saying.
Now, where is the fish called Mao? Yeah, what about the fish called Mao.
I remembered one time I was an electrician. The establishment we worked for was one of them across and fronting SM Mall in Santa Mesa. We were doing re-wiring of the building complex which was just finished construction. As I understood from my boss, Peter [not his name], the establishment was owned by a Briton who was in import-export business.
In the complex was this wide, very spacious display room that must have been over a thousand square meters of floor space. Overlooking the room was a mezzanine where about a dozen employees did office work. Annexed to the mezzanine was a suite where the masters lived.
Separated by a wall with the display room was some manufacturing, assembly work actually, of things like Venetian blinds from parts, all imported from Peoples’ Republic of China. And again, divided by a wall with the manufacturing section is the warehouse that I should say was real awesome wide considering that the place is in a prime urban commercial area. So, it was in this bodega where everything I saw on display came from. And there were crates and crates of them inside that warehouse plaza! A good part of the merchandise was assorted tiles and masonry products imported from P.R.C.
Well, I always know my way if I must go for my curiosity. Landed costs of those PRC tiles were about a quarter of those that people were used to. No wonder, it’s been said that Mariwasa and American Standard have not been making good like they used to be since PRC came in. Anyway, I also saw all them familiar brands displayed beside those PRC products. Looking at the price tags, those PRC tiles must be real profitable. They were tagged almost the same with those of their class. Unless one is an expert of tiles, nobody can tell the differences, anyway.
The people I worked with were mostly young. I felt like a senior citizen among them. We worked buddy system most of the time. The boys were work experienced, alright, but naughty I should say. Like, first time I crawled inside the ceilings I got pointed to this and that comfort room in case I wanted some. Oh, perverts, I don’t have time in oven-hot space, squeezed between roofs and ceiling, just to see people on johns! Haah, It made me remember the time I was a carpenter in Silahis International Hotel [Grand Boulevard today], home of Playboys Club Manila. And I repaired a ceiling at the ladies comfort room there because it sagged. And I inserted in my post-repair report to Engineering what I think caused the structure to fail. The ceiling was not designed to hold a party!
But what about the fish called Mao? Yeah, I think I was on my third day at work when the boys stirred as someone announced that Fish Mao was coming. I thought I heard them talking about somebody funny, weird, or ridiculous, they called Fish Mao before all that, though it never interested me.
So, this person they called Fish Mao was the owner of the establishment. To my surprise, he looked Chinese to me head to feet, and not British like I thought he was. Stupid me, I should have known that a British subject of Hong Kong is perfectly a Briton! Well, well, I did not remember hearing the boys discussing politics to possibly get the idea of calling someone, Mao. So, I guessed it’s because he was Tsino and chubby, and one of the boys must have known one Chinese by the name Mao Zedong.
Sometime later I came to be in the master’s suite. Lo, there was something I saw there that I think very well explained Mr. Fish Mao or how he came to be. In the living room was one big aquarium. In the aquarium was one big fish, I should say unusual fish since I have not seen the like of it before. It has got big head and big mouth. And, the more I stared at it I began to see the face of Mr. Fish Mao. And the more I looked at the fish and thought about Mr. Fish Mao; indeed, I could not help but seeing Chairman Mao! Naughty boys!
Anyway, Mr. Fish Mao must still be there today. Slowing down of business maybe, but what recession are people talking about? Surely he is not really affected by global economic recession. He’s just sort of hibernating, at worst, I suppose. It is the producers and consumers – especially the fixed, limited income earners to include the workers who are likely to feel the crunch. And Mr. Fish Mao the trader will tell you he’s not to blame for that as he is only making a living. Yeah, right, what has the obese child, left by himself in the kitchen, got to do when he has eaten all the foods! 🙂