One of the more odious duties of a taxi driver is having to ferry around people who should be crawling on their bellies rather than being driven. I refer here to employees of companies producing worthless or life-detroying products.
It’s a long way from the tobacco fields of Virginia to the leafy Sydney suburb of Pagewood. In Westfield Drive, near the Westfield shopping complex, stands an unremarkable complex of heavily-guarded buildings belonging to the British-American Tobacco (BAT) company. Fortunately, my passenger on this particular day is working on building maintenance rather than being a BAT employee – and he has no hesitation in speaking his mind.
“The heavy security is to disguise the fact that people just don’t like working for BAT”, he says. “The company has to pay huge salaries just to keep people here – even now that production has fallen from seven billion cigarettes a year to around one billion. Most of the few staff that remain have been working here for twenty or thirty years or longer – and they know that they couldn’t get employment anywhere else.”
So, as BAT draws its last gasp, maybe it will start to reflect on the harm it has caused to so many lives. But don’t hold your breath.
PS I’m please to say that, six months down the road from this post, the facility HAS CLOSED!