Textile Factory Worker
[Mr. Kuada has worked at a textile manufacturing plant for the past four years. He is in his mid-twenties and has completed his General Certificate of Education, Ordinary level. Currently he lives with his parents in an industrial suburb of Accra, although he is trying to find separate accommodations. Mr. Kuada related this account to Ebenezer Mensahin the Twi language.]
I work in the spinning section of the plant. The spinning section includes the coning and weighing units. The company I work for is very big, and still expanding.
I am at the weighing unit now, but previously I worked in the coning unit, where workers wind thread onto plastic cones. Cotton is first spun into threads, which are then brought to the coning unit.
After my basic schooling, in 1988 I took a year of technical training in basic electronics at the Accra Technical Training Center. After this I was at home for about three months, looking for a job. Fortunately for me, a friend of my father happens to be the personnel manager of the textile plant where I now work. He visited our house and my father told him about my job problems. The man asked me to acquire a labor card which I did. I visited him several times, and finally he asked me to join a group of casual laborers. Six months later I was confirmed as a full worker.
I was not employed because of my academic achievements. They were interested only in physical and mental soundness and youth--you had to be between 18 and 23. We were trained for about two weeks. I started at the coning unit. After operating the coning machine for a year, I was transferred to the weighing unit since I was the only coning machine operator who had an education beyond middle school.
Most of the work in the spinning section is done by machine. The operator has to set the machine and feed it with the necessary inputs, and the machine starts operating. You simply stand there to see whether the machine is working properly. If none of the thread is entangled, you just watch the machines work.
The weighing unit where I was transferred is located in between several machines in the spinning section. The coning and weighing units are in a single large room that looks like a warehouse.
I weigh and record all the cones of thread that are produced in a shift. I should be able to give the output per hour and per day should management ask me. They are interested in the total tons of thread produced annually. So I weigh the cones carefully and record the weights in a book. I am the only person at this station so I face a lot of problems. The cones are packed into a wheel that is pushed to my unit. I use a big scale that is fixed to the floor. I roll the wheel onto the scale and record the weight, after I have deducted the weight of the wheel. I do the packing and the pushing throughout the shift. We operate a rotating eight hour shift system. So I work morning, afternoon, and evening shifts at different times. This week I am working the evening shift.
I sometimes advise the spinning section about the quality of the thread they bring to me. When there is a change in quality due to the poor performance of a machine, I tell the operator in charge to correct the mistake.
I really like my work because the company has given me the opportunity to further my education. I have been sponsored to write the examinations for the General Certificate of the Education, Ordinary level. And when there are no cones to be weighed, I have time to read or relax. This helped me prepare for my examinations last year. Though I did not pass well, I have an opportunity to re-write the papers on which I did poorly.
The frustrating aspect of my work is working alone. The weighing job should be done by two persons. But I am alone pushing the wheel and packing the cones after weighing. Nevertheless, I have work breaks so I take a rest after a hard time.
My work place is fully air-conditioned. I believe it has to do with the thread, but I cannot tell what precisely. The factory has only small windows on the ground floor. When there is a power failure, we stop operations because there is not enough ventilation. No one could stay in the building because it gets very warm and uncomfortable. Several times recently we have had power failures. Our management is still talking things over with the electricity corporation.
There are no serious hazards in my work. One might cut his fingers when using a sharp blade to cut thread around old cones. This only happens when you are careless.
We work with very effective and modern machines. Our company is owned by foreigners. Each shift is expected to produce about five to eight hundred cones of thread during an eight-hour shift. Sometimes power cuts and absenteeism make it impossible for us to realize this target. For about two weeks now, we have not reached the quota due to power cuts.
My foreman is very stern. He hates laziness, but if you are a hard worker he treats you well. He wants everybody to do the right thing because if there is a problem or bad quality he is held responsible. He likes to shout at you for any little mistake. That is something I do not like. Despite this, he is fair with all of us. He would gladly teach you anything you care to know about your job.
I am on good terms with the other workers, especially the machine operators. They usually ask me to tell them the quality of their output. We need to cooperate to do a good job. We don't come into contact with the people who buy the thread and finished textile products.
On the production floor, promotion is based purely on length of service. For example my foreman was promoted through long service. However, if you take advantage of the education policy of the company, you may be considered for a managerial or clerical position when a vacancy arises.
The company provides free medical care, free meals, and transportation to and from work. We have a big clinic in the company yard which deals with all sickness and accidents. However our salaries are very low, like in all textile companies in town. Even with allowances for accommodation and overtime, I earn only about 20,000 cedis (then, about $40) a month. Nevertheless I would recommend this job to anybody who wants to join us.
We are given an annual leave. For those who have worked for the company from one to three years, there are 18 working days leave each year. Those with four to five years service receive 24 days leave, and those with six to ten years, 32 working days.
We all belong to the Trade Union Congress. Every worker contributes to this union. We have representatives who are the local executives. We also have a Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR). I represent the spinning section on this committee. The union and CDR help us when we are agitating for higher pay increases.
My job has no effect on my parents. I am not married so I do not have any family problems. But when I am on the afternoon or evening shift, I miss many church meetings and revival sessions. My church elders know about my job so they do not have any problems with me. On Sundays I have decided not to go to work so that I can attend church service.
I believe that even a bad job is better than stealing, so I am happy that I have this work.