By Jan Rustemeyer

That is the floor and those are the cutting machines. That’s my office there, and this is your place on the floor. These are your scissors. Never lose your scissors. Then Ali will buy you new ones and you will have to pay him. That pile in the corner is the fabric. Follow the instructions from your sewing operator. Always make sure you trim the pockets properly. You don’t know how to trim, you say? You see that woman in the green dress on the floor there? That’s Taaniya. She will explain it to you. Ask her about her five children if she doesn’t want to talk to you at first. Her oldest one is doing well at school. Make sure you don’t talk too long. She has to finish her daily production as well.

We work here from 9 in the morning till 6 in the evening. If you want to work more you can stay until 9 in the evening. Just let me know, I will be here the whole night anyways. Do you see those smaller piles of textile on the floor there? Those are the piles for the sewing assistants. Trim them as fast as you can. If you are not fast enough the boss will have to let you go. You don’t want that to happen, right? Your parents need you to keep this job. I agreed with your father that I will give him your wage every month. The days of payment can change, that’s up to the boss. If you work hard maybe your father will buy you some hair clips. Do you like glitter?

If you don’t finish your daily pile of fabric, lose your scissors, distract the other workers or take too many breaks, the boss will withhold parts of your wage. You enjoy singing, you say? I know that Ali doesn’t like it when the floor workers sing or hum too loudly, so watch out for that. You don’t want to annoy him. He likes Elvis Presley songs, though.

Go out of that small door on the opposite side of the hall and you will find the bathroom. The clothes in there are mine, you can ignore them. Open the door quickly and then close it again. If we don’t watch out, the smell can get in the fabric, and then the boss has to throw away a day’s work. You don’t want to know how angry he will be then. Do you see that red stain on the wall there? That’s what happened last time a floor worker didn’t pay attention and kept the door open for too long. There is a water pump in the bathroom as well. Ask your parents if you can bring fresh water from home. Don’t worry when you see a rat. They roam around on the floor sometimes. Just make sure they don’t touch the fabric.

Now look at those grey boxes to the left of the hall. The fire exit is located behind them. Nothing will happen, so we don’t need direct access to it, but I need to tell you this according to the law. We are strictly following the new regulations. We even have fire extinguishers here. I think there is one on the fourth floor.

Here is your worker ID card. Show this when you enter the factory and do it again when you leave. Have a quick look if your name on the card is the right one. Yes, your age is different, that’s true. We needed to change it a little, otherwise the factory would get in trouble and you wouldn’t be able to work here. You can sign here now.

At 12.00 o’clock, everybody stops with their work and eats their lunch. You can say hello to your niece then. Your father told me that she works on the third floor. You are lucky that you can work on the first floor. You see those white fans on the ceiling? That’s our air conditioning. On good days, when there is enough electricity, we turn it on.

Another piece of advice: do not listen to those who complain about everything and talk about labour unions or political organizations. If the boss finds out that you are part of these organizations, he will not be nice to you. The last time somebody was discovered, the worker was called to his office and we have not seen her since. If you work hard and listen to Ali and the others, you will be fine. Do you see that girl next to the sewing machine there? She started as a sewing assistant a couple of years ago as well. And now she has become a sewing operator and has her own machine and makes shirts by herself. I know you would like that as well.

Now it is time to start working. That’s your place on the floor. Go sit next to Taaniya and listen to her. Don’t worry, you will get used to it.


This story is a piece of fiction and does not necessarily portray real life conditions. The style of the story is based on Daniel Orozco’s Orientation. 

Illustration: Knut Samson Hultgren

Jan Rustemeyer hails from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and as such, he is also completely objective when asserting that Amsterdam is the most beautiful city there is. In Uppsala, he especially enjoys the coffee, music and hospitality at Pressbyrån during lecture breaks of his Master’s Program in Peace and Conflict Studies.

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