Thursday, March 23, 2006

Wish upon a star

Construction on a building expected to be the world's tallest was interrupted today (22 March 2006) after Asian workers angered by low salaries and mistreatment rioted, smashing cars and offices and causing what a government official said almost US $1 million in damage.

The stoppage also triggered a sympathy strike at Dubai International Airport today, when thousands of laborers building a massive new terminal also laid down their tools, airport and labour officials said.

Some 2,500 workers on the emerging Burj Dubai Tower and surrounding housing developments chased and beat security officers last night, broke into temporary offices and smashed computers and files, and destroyed about two dozen cars and construction machines, witnesses said.

The initial riot was caused by workers angered because buses to their residential camp were delayed after their shifts, witnesses at the site said.

An Interior Ministry official who investigates labour issues, Lt. Col. Rashid Bakhit Al Jumairi, said the rioters caused almost US $1 million in damage.

The workers, employed by Dubai-based construction firm Al Naboodah Laing O'Rourke, returned to the vast site today but refused to work.

The protesting workers are among almost a million migrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and elsewhere who have poured into Dubai to provide the low-wage muscle behind one of the world's great building booms.


It's a time bomb....waiting to explode..if the situation is not improved soon.
Average wage for a general construction worker..US$7 per day (Yes, per day!), poor living condition...20 workers cramped into a small room with 10 double decker beds not uncommon...water and electricity cut off erratically when u need them most after a 15 hours hard labour under the wash up and cook your only meal per day...employers threatening to send u home if u refuse to co-operate and talk too much......
It's high time for the authority to cramp hard on those erring employers.
Is it too much to wish for a mandatory minimum wage for the workers..compatible with international standard? Is it too much to wish for a legalised union so that the workers have a place to air their grievances? Is it too much to wish for an established body by the authority to set guidelines for the living and working conditions of the workers?


Blogger junebee said...

It's the same issue here in Florida with Mexican migrant workers, although to date they haven't rebelled in such a fashion. If they did we would really be screwed because houses wouldn't get built and crops wouldn't get picked.

We have alot of Hispanics here in Florida. Generally, the Mexicans and Puerto Ricans are at the bottom of the totem pole, with the long-time Cubans and South Americans at the top. Our pediatrician is Cuban, in fact, I am more inclined to select a Hispanic professional for my own or my children's needs. Nanny G. is South American and so is Nanny A.

But it's not uncommon that every couple of months there's an article in the local paper about someone who uncovered Mexican migrants living 8 or 10 to a single-wide trailer (actual accommodation - 2 adults and one child max) with no electricity and holes in the roof, walls, and floors.

The U.S. is unique in that nearly all of our ancestors were migrants at some point. At one time the Irish were vilified, reading about conditions they worked in in U.S. coal mines is about the same as the migrants in Dubai nowadays.

9:54 PM

Blogger Crystal said...

Wow, this is terrible and I hate seeing people exploited and forced to live under such deplorable conditions! As you may know, I watched that movie Syriana and therefore got an inside peak into how things work in the Middle East, and as stated above by Junebee, we have similar problems here in the States. The problem with illegal immigration is that it drives down the wages for native citizens, and in Dubai these people are basically being used as slave labor. I know that UAE doesn't have a large native population and the economic growth is so rapid as to require a huge importation of a labour force, but is it necessary to pay these workers such low wages?! No wonder they exploded and turned violent, I feel frustrated just reading about all that they must endure!

11:02 PM

Blogger Raheel said...

This is the reason why work ethics, safety and human rights is getting much more important these days.

11:17 PM

Blogger Ruben said...

I'm tempted to believe that sweatshops will become legal one day. Companies and governments are actually legalizinf ways to exploit employees.

12:34 AM

Blogger San Nakji said...

In such a country of wealth. This is terrible!

PS... What's happening with that palm tree development in the Gulf? That thing is amazing!

5:38 AM

Blogger MD said...

it's such a pity. like i said before, you can't build a dream on someone else's curse.

1:45 PM

Blogger Balushi said...

As you may know, I watched that movie Syriana and therefore got an inside peak into how things work in the Middle East

Excellent! getting to know a place through Movies... Now that is so bloody creative!

Why arent the Indians dancing behind the bushes when I visited India???

6:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hummm, for the first time I think Balushi has something that makes a lot of rational sense.

On the same note, I think this is an atrocious reality and serious problem that the UAE faces, however, I’m inclined to feel a lot of this rioting and protesting may be a chain reaction to the initial huge one that took place on Shk Zayed Rd a while back, and not necessarily conditions that many of the employees weren’t aware of before taking jobs here (I mean, with so much labor coming from so few countries they must have a realistic idea of what it’s like from other’s who’ve been here and returned before them, in most cases).

I also feel that the employees in this particular case are way out of line considering the many attempts the government is making to open the complaints section for labor abuse cases such as these, informing laborers of their legal rights and who to contact when they’re being denied them, and I don’t see any mention of any employee contacting this ministry concerning this case beforehand. There is no excuse for them violently destroying 1m worth or property; as like mentioned here their wages will most probably never be able to repay this amount which isn't all owned by the employers (who are mostlikely indebt to the employees), and chances are all of them will end up deported without any wages now and those who faced loses will have to make up for them on thier own.

Two wrongs never make a right.

6:19 PM

Blogger black feline said...

June and Crystal...totally agreed with both of u. In this 21st century..exploitation of workers is very much alive..whether it is in a 1st or 3rd world nations..
Raheel..i also beleive education is very important...for them..knowing their basic rights
Ruben: thanks for popping by..u have a great blog!sweatshops legalised one day? that will be a sad day :(
nakji: they had similar problem at the Palm last year but peaceful demo on the street..
md: all the beautiful buildings wer build by somebody's husband, son, father, brother, uncle...etc they toiled thru blood, sweat and tears..even if they are not officially recognised for their least pay them reasonably and promptly!
Balushi: they are many ways to learn about a place, a culture...including movies...u learnt your stuff from an overdose of playmate magazines no and what about indians dancing in the bushes? I dont get to enlighten..must warn vulgarities here..:)
anonymous: thanks for popping by..hope to see u return more often...and a chance for me to visit your blog soon? Sure, i do not condone the violent behavoir..but the root of the problem is what Im addressing. Frankly, im in this industry, i know the darkness very industry is very complex. For example, a manpower supplier in Dubai can tell u they have 400 workers...yes..they will show u all the doctored documents...many of the workers are either absconded or over stayers..for every 12 dhm per worker per hour...the supplier takes 9 dhm..that's how they make their big fat $$$$$$...many other cases..i could almost write a book!

7:58 PM

Blogger archer14 said...

And that book would be one big book. Every single job is over quoted often at a flat 75% plus. The spoils travel up and down the corporate ladder, but lately its been getting tough to cut corners. Hence this newfound situation of workers never receiving their wages on time. All of a sudden no ones interested in business when such huge windfalls could be expected without even getting up of that comfy chair.

9:21 PM

Anonymous Kabayan said...

I guess without the Asian migrant workers, Dubai, in all it's glory would just be a distant dream. It's like the Great Pyramids at Giza. The only difference is, the laborers back then were well-fed and well-cared for because the leaders knew they were the only ones who can finish the job. Respect is what these workers need. I should know. We Filipinos do most of the work people in Dubai would not want to do.

8:43 PM

Blogger Frank said...

I think those employers wont wana be treated like how they treat the workers too...any law inforcement to backup them?

9:38 AM

Blogger black feline said...

kabayan and frank,

thanks for popping by...there might be a light at the end of the tunnel...apparently, the authorities are currently reviewing whether it is viable to unionised the labourforce and also allows some form of legalised protests in place..Im quite upbeat things will change for the will be foolish to ignore this potential time bomb!

3:55 PM

Anonymous Qminster said...

Never understood the need for Unions when proper laws work so much better to solve and settle problems. But at the same time when the laws are not in place I guess that's the time you would need a union to represent the workers.

3:12 PM


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