Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Stylish labourers

I came across this gang of labourers this morning, looking very stylish in their straw hats.

Wearing their own clothes too rather than the usual uniform...a private group perhaps?

Today being July 1st the midday break rule comes into force and I have a question (not sarcastic, I really would like to know).

Several parts of India and Pakistan, where many of the labourers come from, have summer temperatures up in the forties celcius. Do they have a midday work break there?


Mazhar Mohad said...

Not that am aware off. But back home they are a lot more lazy as I hear. And a lot of there seems to hate doing the same work in their home countries which they would do over here which counts only to their laziness.

Zafar said...

No rule as such as far as Pakistan is concerned. Check with a Indian colleague and he confirms that there are no rules as such enforced by the government.

It depends upon company to company if they want their labourers to rest or not.

Additionally I agree to Mazhar it is more of their laziness but also the luxury of being in their own country they can simply go on strike and choose not to work on the pretext of any reason hot weather being one that can choose. They will not be kicked out of the country for doing so.

Seabee said...

Thank you both.

the real nick said...

The mid day break here also applies only to work out in the open. Work inside (say, finishing work in a building) can carry on. Not that all labourers are happy about the forced siesta: the work day starts earlier, and it carries on for longer to make up for the siesta. Believe me, lying around a dusty building site on a plywood sheet or on a pavement for three hours isn't that pleasant.

Anonymous said...

I would differ with these misleading answers. Very few literate people are in contact with workers so I am not surprised that they don't know.

It is not simple to give a one-line answer to this.

The labour law provides for minimum wage, firt aid, overtime, weekly off, accommdation, childcare facilities... etc It does not mention extremes of temperature. Given the size, geographical diverisity, population and the unorganised nature of construction sector (which is why unions or strikes are not an option) it is difficult to implement these.

The places where temperatures would match those in Dubai would be Rajasthan and Kutch. It's the norm that you don't work when the sun is shining practically on your head. They do start work early (like 7 a.m. or earlier) and then break for lunch, stirring when the sun is less cruel. There is a supervisor who maintains a register of hours of work.

Despite that there are reports every year that people die of extreme heat or cold. Also, where there is abject poverty and very small profit margins such as salt pans in the Rann of Kutch there are no breaks.

But, yes, it is the norm to stop work when it is too hot.

And, I have yet to meet 'lazy labourers'.

Anonymous said...

True, Nick.

In Dubai every hour of the day is set in stone and the workers have so little choice that laws are necessary. Also, they cannot get to or leave the site on their own. In India and Pakistan they stay in little makeshift shanties next to or on the construction site.

I found this online:
According to a poll by UK employment and health & safety experts, Croner, 52% of UK employers do not pay their workers when extreme weather conditions prevent them from coming into work.

Employment law dictates that the onus is on the employee to get to work, regardless of the weather. If an employee fails to turn up owing to bad weather, the employer is under no obligation to pay them.

Woudl love to know what the law is like in Australia.

Seabee said...

Anon@12.12 Oz labour laws are extensive and complicated. The majority rest with the Federal government but the individual states and territories have some differences.

The law covers contracts, working hours, minimum wage, paid leave & entitlements including maternity leave, protection of young workers, equality etc etc etc. but I'm not sure about temperature limits.

I'll try to find out.

Anonymous said...

in india, you need to see it from the larger perspective also. fist of all there is no slave or bonded labour, so if the employee is unhappy he just doesnt come from next day. secondly the contractor who has hired the labourer has deadlines to catch, and he needs to maintain a decent relation with workers to prevent work stoppages.

in most of india, working hours are very very different, in most of southern states labourers start around 9, take a 10 min teak break aroun 11, take a 30 min to 1 hour lunch break around 1, take another 15 min tea break around 4, and they wind up work by 5.30 or so. so u see an average 8 hrs give or take some. and in most of those places, heat is in early 40's , not in 50's like here ( as you know, here they report ambient temperature, never the temperature under the sun which is a good 5 deg extra i guess). and they have flexibility to wear whatever dress that suits their climate there, like shorts or sarongs or whatever.

so, 3-4 hour mid day breaks are rather the exception than rule, never seen it in india.

Anonymous said...

Temperatures here reach 50+ Celsius.

also lookup on the term heat index.

Anonymous said...

Seabee, why are you thanking Mazhar Mohad and Zafar again? Those were the two most offensive comments I have seen in response to your post.

Seabee said...

Anon@5.05, I didn't thank them again, I thanked them once, for answering my question.

Anonymous said...

i would like to comment about the larger perspective with labour practice in india. it sound as if you are telling that there are no contracts that binds the employees and the employer, just as an employer should have a "decent relation" with the employee and there goes the business. i worked with indians and they really are observing the 8hrs a day work. if an indian computer technician for example working from 9am to 5pm dropped a screw driver at 4:59pm, he will pick it up the next day because he cant spent extra minutes to wipe the cluttered space to look for his screw driver. they work slow and they dont value quality of work.