I’ve often heard that working in construction has its perks. But I hadn’t expected a first-hand view into bourgeois mentality to be among them. 

This insight came at the price of sharing a workspace with a construction site manager who treats our makeshift office as his personal fief. 

Fortunately, he rewards himself with “well-deserved breaks” with generous regularity. I can only assume their frequency is due to the great fatigue induced by idly watching labourers work.

My presence in the workspace is tolerated with minimal protest. Since I help with the office’s IT, there isn’t much choice. If I wasn’t necessary, I expect management would sequester themselves off entirely. Unfortunately for them, someone has to ensure their computers don’t break down.

From my desk, I’m granted a view of the whole site, down to the bottom level. It’s a panorama of safety non-conformance.

Literally. The view itself is due to an unguarded wall, which opens up onto a sudden 10-metre drop. It’s one of several dotting the site. That, combined with the haphazardly strewn debris that paves the floor, has rendered the safety manager’s role a largely ceremonial one.

When raised as a concern, you can expect an obligatory shrug in reply, if that.

Inside the office isn’t much better. Here, a dreaded call from the bogeyman construction union sends the room into a bout of expletives. Unfortunately, the irony of decrying “thugs” (how original) is lost on a management that just last week unlawfully dismissed a worker, and then conspired to cover it up. 

“It’s so hard to sack someone nowadays”, one moans, to the response of nodded heads and tut-tuts of affirmation. “So much bureaucracy. Not like how it used to be.” Thugs indeed.

Despite this, they don’t hesitate to solemnly shake their empty heads at the news of a young man’s death on a construction site in Sydney. From their tone, you’d think it was an unavoidable tragedy, rather than the result of disregard for workers’ safety. For them it’s a dual commiseration, as one speculates that “those damned thugs” are now going to “crack down” on construction city-wide. I reach (in vain) for a Nurofen.

A boss may present a facade of charm through the occasional office party, casual Friday or friendly word. But never forget whose side they’re really on.

In my little office, it’s impossible to.