Fort András (Andrew Fort) Literary Reports on Workers’ Lives and Moods)
Part One: Zoltán is a commuter who says the workers will become the best soldiers
– An individuality, a story –
– Well, say you journalist! Why are you interested in my weekday breakfast program? When there is nothing special about it. Gray and gloomy.
I wasn’t expecting such an introduction when I started asking Zoltan. Solid, muscular, guy. His hair is short, his face is round, his hand is hard. There seems to be a strong sense of distrust in our society as a whole. He wants to know what my motivation is when I ask about his life, essentially his private sphere.
“Because I want to show people what the real world of a laborer is,” I answer. – If it’s gray and gloomy, then it is.
But everyone knows that. Why talk about it?
“Because not everyone knows,” I say. – Or, if you know, he doesn’t feel it. Because, on the one hand, he was not part of it, nor was anyone written about to awaken empathy in his heart.
“If that’s still possible,” he adds wryly. – If you are at all interested in the fate of a lowly laborer.
– They just think they’re low.
“I think so,” he says. – This country is being carried by the workers, by the workers. Without us, nothing in the country would work. Everything would die.
“That’s why you need to show your destiny to the country-world so we can make it easier,” I interrupt.
– Make it easier? Come on! That would be in our best interest, but not for the capitalists or the politicians. Because our hard destiny is the key to their easy life. We’ll keep them.
Zoltán lights a cigar again. (Specifically, a brown cigar, which smells wildly, but at least does not burn. In my experience, laborers generally smoke a lot.)
“So that’s why they don’t want to improve our destiny because they’re not interested.” The overtime law is also a fucking big pat on the back. They just fuck us about all kinds of stupid things, trying to tell us how good it is to finally work ourselves to death …
“But it’s been a long time,” he continues. “For example, only my overtime is more than 600 hours a year.” – After a quick count, 672 came out. “But I also know people who have 1,852 overtime hours throughout the year.” Do you know how many hours a day you work?
– 12 on weekdays, “only” 8 on weekends.
– Wow fuck. And when do they relax?
– Never. But they’re also like zombies. If you want, I’ll bring them together. But first with the woodcutter.
“All right,” I say.
“But I still don’t know if it all makes sense,” he shakes his head. Then he looks up defiantly. His eyes are steel blue, with a strong will radiating from him.
“But they never regret us,” he says. – Don’t believe it. But you don’t have to. Just find out what to expect from an angry people who can almost lose their chains because they have lost their privacy, their family, their peaceful weekdays, and in the sea of overtime, ever paid for. And at the kind of gloomy and soul-dying dawn I was talking about.
Write, you are a journalist! Let this knowledge of our lives be a warning to the ruling class what to expect from us. Because our hard life hardens not only our soul, but our body as a military training. Ask your journalist!
– All right. So why are your dawn gray and gloomy? After all, breakfast should in theory be fun. You know; “He who rises early finds gold.”
– You don’t believe this stupid thing yourself. I find nothing but a damn cold in the mid-morning fog.
– When do you wake up?
– At two o’clock.
– You never woke up early?
– Of course not. That’s why I know how it feels. I’m beginning to understand grimness.
“Yes,” he sighs, and for a moment the hardness disappears. “My little ones sleep sweetly like milk when the phone scares me.” From my most beautiful dreams. Where there was no chase for life, and the kids and Mom were always happy.
– Oh my God…
– Oh yeah! So then I don’t have to explain, you know.
– But tell me! Not for me, but for the readers.
– Well. So at first I don’t even know where I am. When I get up, I hit everything. It should be ignited immediately because it is cold in the room, the wind whistles outside and pulls through the gaps.
The radio is on, not too loud, so the little ones and Mom won’t wake up. I’ll make coffee, 2 in 1, because it’s done right away.
– How many children?
– Two little girls. They’re eight and ten.
– And how old are you, Zoltán?
– Forty-five. My wife, before you ask; Fourty. She works here in the village, maid. But he earns very little. There is not much to look for in the area anyway, everywhere there is only a minimum wage, but in most cases they are not even given. The average is around 80 per month.
– How much are you earning?
– 150,000. They are net.
– With overtime? With that 670?
– Yes, with overtime.
– Are you on a pay hour?
– I get 650 forints per hour. I know this is not much, which is why I take extra work on weekends at the tree yard.
– And when are you home?
– Almost never. But you ran very forward. It’s still morning, we’re talking about it.
– Yes, I’m sorry.
– So I wake up a little after my first coffee. In the meantime, I listen to the news, as much news as it was then, and it wakes me up, because I’m nervous about all the impertinence that politicians are taking. Then comes the second coffee.
– How many coffees do you drink a day?
– You keep interrupting! – bursts out. – Let me tell you.
I stick my hand in my mouth.
“I need an hour and a half,” he continues, “to finish my usual morning routine.” I don’t want them to stay with Mom because the kids are giving her just enough.
No bath, I did it in the evening, just shaving. It must be, because the boss makes me speak if I look impure.
– What do you do?
– Silence! Later. If I’m very tired, I might have another coffee. About 6 coffees a day is average, but there are times when 8 go down. I need to maintain my levels of caffeine, because without it I fall asleep or maybe faint.
Then comes the dressing, I hate it this winter because it has to put on so much heavy stuff. But it’s already three hours. Morning feeding needs to be done because Mommy won’t know besides the two little ones.
– What kind of animals do you have?
– Four chickens, one rooster, and five guinea fowl. Then the three dogs, and the kids’ cats, also three. Guano also needs to be cleaned up, as well as dog rubber. Then I look at the telo, Lord God! It’s half past four. And I have to take the 4.11 train to get to the workstation at half past six.
If I’m lucky, I won’t fall in the dark yard again, though I’m using a headlamp nowadays, which helps a lot. But sometimes that’s not enough. Running kiss, for the sleepers, Mom hugs her in a half-dream. His face is warm and fragrant. The little ones just squirm in their sleep like babies.
And the rush begins. Half past 4…
I know this dawn run well, and I know how brutal it is to get up at two. Especially in winter, cold. A man dies every time, but then he resurrects himself and continues to moan. We need work, we need money, even if so little, otherwise we will starve to death, freeze.
These are early dawn beginnings, long-established employers by employers. It comes after such an incredibly stressful, gloomy, stressful morning after a busy day with hard physical work and often muscle-splitting efforts. Together, they will completely suck the power of the worker, and he will certainly not rebel, even if his wages are so low that he is interrupted day by day. She’s happy to have a beer at the end of the day and eat something before she goes to bed.
Although I usually take a train later than Zoltán, “only” at 4.31, (sometimes we meet at the station because we live in a village.) We won’t meet unless I have my car again after I have collected the money. Then I won’t have to get up at two, “just” at 4.
Zoltán doesn’t have a car, but he won’t. There are the kids there. There’s no money left in the car. And his bike (which would make things much easier) was stolen. If you have an extra 20 thousand, then buy another one. Whatever it is, it will again be a waste of money if that bike is stolen.
So, the dawn rush remains. Half past 4…
“The station is half an hour’s walk away,” Zoltán continues. – No snow, no ice, no mud. You can’t miss a train. Because then you are too late for the job, and that is excluded.
Sometimes, when I am out of luck and the wind is blowing heavily into my face, it carries cold rain or beaver in my face. But now you have to jog, because it’s almost three-quarters to four. And the station is 3 kilometers away. On the dirt road, sneaky holes, potholes, street lighting only every 200 meters. I would have turned up in the holes filled with frozen water if I didn’t have my headlamp. Before, I lit the phone, but I always dropped it. So, I invested 1400 Forints on the headlamp, but at least I won’t break my telly.
I’m running. Because time is better than kilometers. And this is the case every morning. I’m forever late. After a few hundred meters I am already sweating. dripping water under the cap for my hair and under the sweater for my t-shirt. The icy wind is good for this. I’m not cold enough yet. In addition, my heart starts again. At first, it only slightly presses, and then I feel increasingly tight as if it were in a large gavel, which slowly squeezes. – I have to stop.
There’s no air right now. Only my rush of breathing can be heard in the silence of the deserted street. You should stop the coffee, I know. But, how do I stay awake when I’m very tired? And I’m always tired. – Oh my God! It’s almost 4 o’clock! But I’m already at the end of the long station. I shake myself and take off again. Pain and shortness of breath no longer exist. It is only after the nausea that follows that I start cracking and spitting wildly.
I run across the tracks. My ankle is rolling over the railway stones. But finally blown, cracking, I arrive at the platform. One jump and I’m up. I stand there almost in a vapor cloud, the perspiration in the cold evaporates so much from me. The train can come.
– Many people are here already. One woman remarks, “The train will hit you once.” Of course, I know it’s dangerous, I never tell Mom what price I get to 4.11, but I can’t go round the underpass, it’s too far and that’s equal would be late. Already the fitting.
It runs at high speeds, creating whirling whirlpools, many are on it, but there are still seats. The people at dawn are quite quiet. Almost everyone is busy with their phone or they are sleeping a little more. We roll forward in the dark, frosty landscape. The quarry is 50 minutes away. In the meantime, I’ll blow myself out a little.
I wake up at Kök, I have to hurry to get back, Kőbánya-Alsó is 3 minutes away. I’m getting on the tram here, and I’m in my workplace in 20 minutes. I’m half past six. Then the working hours do not start, you just have to change clothes and have coffee. But at 6:00, the tape starts and the huge robot rises from its crouching position.
– Robot? – I ask. – What kind of robot?
– You misunderstand again. What is an industrial robot? Big, strong and speechless.
– Are you working on a robot?
– If I say…
– And what?
– I’m bagging. I pack 10 pounds of bags from the filling tape to the packaging tape. Do not ask why it is not possible to connect the two tapes. I place it under the mighty hands of a ‘Siemens’ robot.
Packed. I’ll give her the bags. One 10-pound bag every 10 seconds. He (This?) Grabs it, lifts it off the tape, or turns it three times (don’t ask why) and puts it on a pallet. If you have loaded enough and have the pre-programmed bag number, you will rotate, wrap and then glue the entire pallet loaded with bags. And he throws the finished pallet into the hallway, in front of the forklifts. Then he pulls out another pallet and starts over. With two hands, he packs two pallets with 4 conveyor belts at a time. His huge hands are spinning, spinning, gripping, letting go, rising, sinking like lightning. You just hurry the bags off the four straps onto the two pallets.
At least 8 people work at the same time. I’m nowhere compared to him. Quiet, fast and strong and never complains. In my most active period, I move about 3 hours between 9am and 12pm and give her 3.5 tons per hour. During this time, he moves not only four times (since he wraps 4 ribbons on 2 pallets), 14 tons, but many times more, because he also moves them by pallet at full load.
But unlike me, he has no effort at all. It just whispers quietly when I, or one of the workers, is not fast enough and his huge hand is waiting empty.
– And in the meantime, how are you doing? How many hours do you work?
– Less in the interim. Because it’s not always the same person’s performance and the afternoon is getting tired, but that’s not a problem because it’s a general thing. This is what the foreign labor inspector said when he measured my work with a stopwatch. Then I interrupted, working when he was standing and watching. That was a good result. But then I found out he was watching on the camera, and then my performance was weaker. So he averaged it, but it still yielded a decent result and was not fired.
– And how much are you earning, especially with overtime?
– Overtime is the standard because we have 10 hours a day. This is 50 hours every week, and every Saturday every Saturday for 6 hours. That’s how official overtime comes out 672. Annually, we get the same overtime pay as we do in full-time because we sign 10 hours a day on a work contract, plus 21 on a Saturday – That’s 150,000. More specifically, 150,800.
– Hourly wage?
“Well, that’s not much!” “For a job that is so physical, plus 10 hours.” But I won’t say it out loud. Why? He knows that too, and if I spoke, he would say; “This is it, nothing else. And even happy to earn that much. ”
But, as if reading in my mind. It says:
– I know it’s not much, but it’s still more than the 99k minimum wage or the 75-80k ultra minimum. Well, that’s why I take on extra work at the tree farm on weekends.
– And how much do you get there?
– There 8,000 a day. for 8 hours.
– And how do you handle this constant physical overload?
– If the robot hadn’t knocked out, – literally, – I wouldn’t have been able to.
– Like military training.
– Well, I did. The workers would be the best soldiers. Every dawn is like an alarm, and then working is like being in the practice field. Discipline practices are a duo. In the army, the sergeant, in the workplace, the camera guarantees obedience.
– Oh well. Everything for the company.
– Of course not everything. In the army one breaks for the homeland, and in the workplace only for himself and for the greater part of the capitalist.
– What do you mean?
– How much money do you get for your work? A fraction of what you would produce. It is swept by the capitalist.
“But, for example, there’s the robot,” I interrupt. – It is a serious investment and will only make your job easier.
– Damn it! Making a profit. It makes it easier. But not our job. It is not a charitable investment but a financial one. Our work will be nothing less, indeed more. Propaganda whispers that robots make human work easier, but more and more people know that this is not true! The owner’s profit is increased, but the job of the laborer is only made more difficult. When you work with robots, you quickly realize how relentless and how big geeks you are. If I were people I would spit on them.
But this is only artificial intelligence programmed for exploitation. In the spirit of “the three more”: More work, more profit, more exploitation.
– That’s what you came up with …
– The wording is yes. Not the reality. It exists and is ruthless.
– This is true.
“It’s ruthless, because if people were in their place, they would stop if they saw that you were about to collapse.” Because not to think we’re not tired. The tens of tons that we move leave a trace on us. Not just any.
– What kind?
He doesn’t answer, just shakes his head. Then he says,
– Well, that was my dawn. And in broad lines, the next slightly turbulent day. That’s it.
– I understand and thank you. – I say, and I’m about to leave. – I seem to ask you something else, incidentally:
– And what are you packing? What product? Which company is it at all?
– That’s enough! He stands, raising his voice slightly. – That was not what this was originally about when we discussed this report. – You wanted to get it this morning, you got it. Plenty.
– But, if you are curious about the job, you may want to stand by the tree for the saw. On weekends and holidays, I go to work at the lumberyard, and then go crazy at the lumberjack. If they don’t beat you in the first 10 minutes, they might talk to you. But, if you talk nonsense, you will be beaten. – He laughs. – so watch your mouth!
– To be continued –
Andrew Fort / Freedom Report