by Lai Lai (Factory Stories, Factory Management, November 2014)
Because the warehouse has been running a lot better, the warehouse clerks in charge went to the boss to demand a pay rise. When they raised the matter, the boss frowned. Finally she agreed to a 50 yuan allowance, and then she said: “We have to keep the balance with other departments. We can’t have a raise in just one department. I’ve thought it through again. First you should use overtime payments to earn more.”
All together there are only four warehouse clerks, so 50 yuan per person means no more then 200 yuan in one month. That sum wouldn’t even buy a few boxes of her imported facial masks. If she has to “think through” every thing, what’s the point of discussing it again?
Fine, you said we should use overtime payments to earn more, so we’ll do overtime then. By finding all kinds of reasons to do one or two overtime hours a day everyone can be sure to make 3,000 yuan at the end of the month. However, less than two months later our boss came to us demanding that every department give an account of overtime fees for the last month. She said: “You have to control overtime a bit more. Look at how strict the control is over there in production. They only do a few hours of overtime per week (actually, due to a lack of orders they were not allowed to do overtime even if they wanted to). You do so much overtime that other departments started complaining and said that your overtime is like an extra benefit payment.”
She complains that we do too much overtime? The warehouse clerks think it is not even enough overtime. As a matter of fact, some people are already thinking of quitting. Others think we earn too little – workers in other factory warehouses can earn up to 4,000 yuan. Here, both warehouse clerks and ordinary [production] workers get the same basic wage (in fact, it is 50 yuan higher, but everybody thinks 50 yuan is as good as nothing). Although the work is not regarded as hard, we leave home to work because we have to take care of both our parents and our kids. We can’t just earn pocket money for ourselves every month and not care about anything else.
So what shall we do? As no one expects the boss will give us a raise, it might be better to leave and find another job. What is the point of struggling in this place? Having said that, to stay here wishing we earned a bit more still means we have to rely on overtime payments.
So how can we do some more overtime while stopping the masses [from working here]? Only if there were less people could everybody somehow rightfully claim to do more overtime. Everyone is willing to work a bit harder to earn a bit more. Since one person has now left, the remaining three divided the work and now manage to do the work that was formerly done by four people. When our boss heard that we were insisting that no new people get hired, she agreed over and over again. Seen from her perspective, if the three remaining people do more overtime it is still cheaper than hiring another person.