Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Better labourer accommodation in future

It's been announced that Dubai Municipality has issued new specifications for labour accommodation, a huge improvement on existing specifications.

Just pause to think about these workers, of which there are around half a million in the labour camps. Many of them are paid only between Dh500 and Dh1,000 a month. That's US$136 -US$272 a month.

Could you live on that?

They work twelve hour shifts in the heat and humidity, now thankfully getting a break in July & August between 12.30pm and 3pm.

Could you even contemplate that?

The current spec. for their accommodation space is 20 square feet per person. Measure it and see what that means - it's four feet x five feet.

Could you live in that space?

Worse, a Municipality official told Gulf News that "...some 90% of the existing camps are violating this rule as most of them are crowded."

For new accommodation being built in the emirate of Dubai the space required will be doubled to 40 square feet per person.

But there are other requirements that are just as important. Use of bunk beds will not be allowed. Temporary shelters, such as Portakabins, will not be allowed. There must be at least one bathroom for every eight labourers. A maximum of eight men can be housed in one room. Furniture should include a single bed and a clothes cabinet for each person.

In general, all accommodation must be air-conditioned, flooring must be easy to clean, there must be sufficient ventilation, light, insulation, drainage, water, power, fire safety measures must be in place and there are health and environment requirements.

Bathrooms and toilets are to have clothes hangers, exhaust fans, hot water, mirrors, cabinets, soap containers. Water tanks should have sun shades and there must be enough water coolers for the number of men in the camp.

You might think, as I do, that it's all just basic stuff. The minimum that you would expect people to be supplied with.

That hasn't been the case though. Many of these workers have much less than a fellow human being should be expected to accept.

There's a question over whether the new rules will apply to existing accommodation, but 'a senior official' said that although they were still reviewing it, the existing accommodation "will have to follow the new list of specifications..."

Isn't it a sad reflection on human behaviour that we need rules and laws before we do what's right.

All it really needs is for people to respect each other.

But far too many simply don't treat other people with respect. We see and hear about it all the time. Labourers being housed in appalling conditions, maids being abused, moronic driving endangering others, salaries not being paid, six-month bans being put on staff who resign.

Laws are needed, they are being introduced and we are getting huge improvements in Dubai.

How do we change attitudes though.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad some1 is doing something 2 help these poor guys.They work so hard and deserve 2 b given slack ...let's hope companies actually pay attn 2 the new rules and things actually improve

i*maginate said...

"How do we change attitudes though"

Big question! How do you like the response: "Together, we can make a difference" ;)

Seabee said...

i*maginate, 'together we can make a difference' is true. But that only applies to the people who care enough to want to change things. The problem is how to change the attitudes of the people who don't care about others.

i*maginate said...

seabee, what do "attitudes" matter anyway, when it comes to the plight of the labourers?

Do you mean those of the common man, or of those in charge, who have direct responsibility of the welfare of their employees: labourers in this case?

If it's the common man, attitudes don't matter; it's actions.

As for management who do not take appropriate action, and neglect their "responsibilty" towards employees, i.e. due to their "attitude", what can be done about this?

It's not about the "attitude" of the management, it's more about the bottom line. This I know from many industries, where bosses try and get as much benefit as possible from employees.

Do you think things will change re: labourers, and what could contribute to that?

Seabee said...

Yes, I think things will change - they have already with, for example, the midday break in July & August, with companies not paying salaries being charged etc. It's laws and the enforcement of them that will change things.

ZeTallGerman said...

Did anyone else find the accompanying Gulf News picture rather ridiculous for this article? I'm no expert, but I could imagine that after spending 12 hours of your day working on a construction site, "relaxing" in your very own GYM is probably the last thing you'd want to do...