S’Pacifically Speaking: The Ides of March
Here’s a bit of trivia for you for no reason at all except that this is the month of March and since my school days recollect the saying ‘Beware - The Ides of March.’ In this instance it’s not the book or the TV series but simply the day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to the 15 March 44 BC when Julius Caesar was assassinated in Rome. Gaius Julius Caesar, known as Julius Caesar, was a Roman politician, some say a dictator, a general and an author of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire . I love his quote: “As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t see than about what they can.” Hail Caesar! I had the sad and unfortunate situation of hearing the chair of one of the boards I volunteer with say the reason a male employee was promoted to a newly created position in the organisation was that the other two highly qualified female employees, with masters’ degrees in their discipline, were always getting pregnant. I know that inequality still exists big time in the work place with unequal pay and opportunities for promotions, but to hear it said was like pouring hot water on my head. Short of a lovely uppercut to the chair in question, ending up like Julius Caesar mentioned above, (unfortunately the person is older than me by 10 years and sickly, and therefore it would be highly unfair on my part), colourful language of the first degree followed, resulting in the position being scrapped totally. Taking this matter to the Fiji Human Rights and AntiDiscrimination Commission would be a lengthy process resulting in more unrest in the workplace between staff, the possibility of time off from work for all parties concerned and then usually at least one person resigning after all the stress involved both at work and at home. Moving to have the idea and position scrapped was easier. Discrimination in the workplace continues, many will say it has decreased, but decrease or not, it still exists. Is it because we are not so loud anymore? Once upon a time NGO’s and even international and regional organistions held workshops on these issues and lobbied strongly in the media with awareness-raising campaigns around these concerns – now not so much. Has it become unsexy or have we moved on to more lucrative issues like climate change which has a lot of mitigating funds available. Sad but true. Whilst on the topic of the workplace, training seems to be lacking in all areas despite all the organisations now rampant in the country training young people for all matters of work. Phone manners and over the counter courtesy are truly lacking and when I get a person who is extremely civilized on the phone or in a service outlet, I thank them profusely and congratulate them on their courtesy, and I hope it makes their day. Top of the list are the government ministries – phones aren’t answered period so there’s little one can say about the phone manners there. Asking retail stores about prices or availability of products would have to be next on the list, with an exciting array of grunts and groans as affirmative or negative answers. I sometimes feel that some companies have hired gorillas to answer their phones - the sounds are so similar. Well, science reminds us that our journey to present day status as homo sapiens had us in the trees for several millenia and although I prefer the biblical explanation on creation, sometimes when I hear these specimens on the phone it makes me wonder again. Companies and businesses, please invest in some form of training for your staff if you are service providers or have any contact with the public at large. It’s off-putting if you have bad service in a restaurant or resort especially. It would be worth your while training your staff – hire your father or mother in law if you have to. Very sad to see large areas of land in parts of Suva and Viti Levu that were cleared to make way for so called substantial overseas investment. It takes centuries to get clearance for potential overseas investors in Fiji from the relevant authorities and not the ‘one stop shop’ facility often-touted. One wonders how the due diligence is conducted as the cardboard promises on the proposed development do not, in any way, match the large holes in the ground or mounds of dirt now visible along MacGregor Road, the old Barrack property in Princes Road and thank heavens Div and his family have secured the development of the proposed 24 storey hotel/mall monstrosity development that was promised along Grantham Road near Raiwaqa. What a pity those houses were pulled down as the Barrack place, though old, was a landmark property. If only we were as diligent with our long term vision for the development of Suva and her surrounds – our city could easily be a show piece for the rest of the region. It’s like an Ides of March kind of month so sorry about the whinges above, but hope to have brighter news next month – or perhaps not, April Fool! Pax Vitia.
Mrs BERNADETTE ROUNDS GANILAU is a former radio personality and Member of Parliament. Now retired, she continues with her NGO work and runs her own business.