Tuesday, 30 October 2012

5a. Ethics Within Working Abroad

In my most recent job there were a lot of unresolved ethical issues. Most of these were brought under the health and safety category, but also our welfare, which was quite unsettling.
I'll give you a bit of background to my job. I was a dancer as part of the Diamond Dancers touring Paphos, Cyprus. We were part of an agency that sent us to hotels and bars. So we would arrive at the venue, set out costumes, give our music to the DJ and away we go! In the hotels, there where (mostly) a good back stage area for us to change. But when we were sent to bars, the bar is not equip for dancers needing a changing room, which is understandable. So we would be put in any space they had. Some venues we would have to change in an office and other times we were put in spaces that where very unstable.We were put in stock rooms, which were often full to the brim with barrels leaving not enough space for two girls to change let alone four. We have had to change in a kitchen where there has been broken glass on the floor. Other venues have been very good about looking after us. Even when they only have limited space. They have made sure that areas have been cordoned off so that no one can come round and watch us getting changed. Other venues, were not so courteous.

In the view of our health and safety, I will start with the changing space. Many times, hotels had a lovely back stage area, with lights round mirrors, the classic 'back stage' area as you can imagine. Other times when the venues where not so equip is when we had problems. Lack of space was one of the biggest problems for us. This was because we had very many fast changes into different costumes and having to rush to a space that was usually quite far away from the performance area, then having to squeeze into it was a hinderance for us.

More on changing spaces is that most spaces were not prepared for us. There was a time when our changing area was full with sixteen beer barrels stacked up high. With four girls changing in an area with heavy things that could easily fall, that is definitely not safe. Often we would be given an office room that was still covered in papers and had things all over the desks, leaving us to have to find a space to put our costumes. It was fine for us to deal with but it hadn't be prepared knowing that the dancers were coming. Another time we were given a kitchen to change in which had broken glass all over the floor. The bar at that point was under staffed and very busy for our performance, but it still wasn't very fair for us having to put our costumes onto the broken glass as we had large costumes with feathers, so they couldn't have all just sat one one chair.
One venue we were told to change in the stock room. It was covered in a white dusting of powder. We soon discovered that this was vermin poison as the number of dead cockroaches laying everywhere were found. THIS is where we drew the line and asked to be given another changing area. Which we were granted, but unfortunately..we were not asked back to this venue..
Another health and safety problem we had were the floors. Most of the bars have been designed for performers, with built in lights and an area for the performers to entertain. But they have not been designed for dancers. In the day time the bar's performance space is used as normal, with tables on it to provide for customers. And so the dance floor space is cleaned like the rest of the bar floor. Sometimes these floors get polished, leaving it very slippery for us to dance on. This for dancers is a huge health and safety risk. Because if we slip and hurt ourselves. That is the end of the show! With in the agency that we work for, we are the only dance group. The rest of the clientèle are live singers and tribute acts. So a polished floor is only a problem for the dancers, making us look like pre Madonna’s.

Now onto our ethical welfare. Like I've said sometimes we had really good changing areas, sometimes we had really bad changing areas. The worst was when the venue didn't care what was going on with us. So they allowed men just to be able to walk into our changing area to try and talk to us. This was very unfair as we were very unclothes with our costumes on, let alone changing into the next one. So this was often an issue for us where we would get angry at the man and tell the workers of the bar or hotel to stop them coming round. But this was always very difficult to do this mid performance as we had little time to take a sip of water let alone notify someone. We had one venue where it had a large open window that backed onto a car park. During a show we saw that there was a big group of lads outside with their telephones out filming us changing. This was very upsetting as we had no choice but to keep changing as we were not able to just stop in the middle of the show. Luckily we were able to tell the owner and he quickly blocked the window with a board and ran after the boys outside. So it's not always the fault of the venue. It just happened to occasionally be very unfortunate.

Each act was given a car to travel to the venues. One day driving along, suddenly the window fell down into the door, like the window had just open it's self and then refused to go back up. So we were stuck with no window in the front passenger side. We notified the agency, who did nothing about it as it didn't stop the car from working. The light that lights up the dials behind the steering wheel had also blown. This meant when we were driving at night we could not see how fast we were going. This is very dangerous! Because not only could you be breaking the speed limit and get points on your licence, you could be putting the lives of others in danger and not even realise! Again the agency was notified about this. Of course nothing was done about it because it didn't stop the car working and getting us from A to B. Months passes and we came in to October when the rain started to come. Only then was the front window fixed as the rain was poring into the car, as the little times it does rain in Cyprus, It's a lot more than a little light shower! The car was filled with little puddles. So that late afternoon the car was taken away and the window was 'fixed' however we were not aloud to open the window as it had only been stuck in place, rather than getting the window mechanism to work. Unfortunately the light in the car has still not been fixed, showing that the company was only interested in paying for things that they had to, rather than looking out for the welfare of their clients.

With all these issues, things are looked at differently in Cyprus. The health and safety rules are not looked at as seriously as they are in the UK. Cypriots also have a very relaxed outlook on life. If they say something will be done tomorrow you will be lucky if it has been done by the end of the week. The saddest thing of all is: if you don't like it, there are always one hundred other girls that the agency could give your job to.

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