Johannesburg - I was raised on “You go get a nine-to-five job, earn your pay and work your way up”, said Matthew McConaughey.
I got to embrace this noble rationale until I realised that the part of working our way up hardly speaks to our salaries. As blacks, we work twice as hard, put in the extra hours and effort, but our salaries are still not enough to put us in a good financial standing. We are still underpaid.
As a young black millennial, often when I say “I want a new job that pays better money”, I am slammed and scorned. Many a time, these words come from white seniors or a few blacks in management who never had the struggles or challenges of having to be the main financial providers in their families.
Their argument is that I am “part of a generation that doesn’t want to earn their stripes”. It is fast becoming a flawed argument in this financially unpredictable space we find ourselves in as South Africa.
The first question they ask is “how long have you been in this job?”
If you say a year or two, you will be told it’s not good enough for you to be demanding more or what you think you deserve.
I am all for earning my stripes. I understand that we need to work our way up and not go around demanding increases.
But the truth is, we are always looking for extra money. No matter how little the extra is, it will help us in one way or another.
I must confess, there was a point when I left a job because I was not treated well. I was too frustrated. I needed medication to get some sleep. I got sick every second week.
I did not have the best managers. In my books, they were selfish, inconsiderate and to a larger extend I think I was treated the way I was treated because I was the only black employee.
It was all too much to handle. I did not have the wisdom and the thick skin to take it all. The treatment wasn’t the same meted out to my white counterparts.
Back to my point. Why am I a part of a generation that shows little loyalty to their jobs?
First, we have to go where more money is. What I earn is not good enough to save, cover the car instalment, pay rent for the flat I live in and get basics for my unemployed mom and help my little brother.
Some call it “black tax”, but I believe that my family’s financial needs are my responsibility. That is the fundamental reason why I won’t hesitate moving from one job to another if offered more.
So, if I just got to Company A, and six months later I get offered a job that gives me an extra R3000 or R5000 at Company B, I will take it.
Young black employees are financially excluded. We find ourselves doing the same job with white counterparts who earn more than us. Yet, I could be possibly doing the job better. This is why our loyalty or commitment will always be to the bottom line - money.
How I am treated at the workplace has become a secondary worry and it is slowly becoming a non concern. For as long as I can earn a salary that covers all the basics for myself and my family, I am more than happy.
I will wake up every day without fail to go to a hostile workspace or an unreasonable manager. I must earn enough to provide sufficiently for my family.
We are not paid enough as blacks from rural areas. My financial responsibilities are not equal to those of a black or white employee whose worry is just his/her car and all the self-gratification exercises.
As a villager, the pressure is great. Most of us are breadwinners.
Make no mistakes, we work hard, but we will not sit with our bosses, HR and the likes to be told that we have to “earn our stripes” before we get better salaries. With such financial responsibilities, the paltry salaries we are getting aren’t helping us at all. We are not disloyal to our jobs but loyal to our responsibilities, and they require jobs that give us more money.
* Kabelo Chabalala is founder of the Young Men Movement. E-mail, [email protected]; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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