24 July, 2007

Labourers in lament

As the summer heat draws on, I wonder why labourers are left standing, waiting for their bus.

Why do they wait? Where do they go?

44 comments:

Do Bi Guy said...

I blame the traffic...

i*maginate said...

Even with traffic, company transportation should not be late!

nick said...

Why do they wait?
Ehm, because their shift is over maybe?
I got an idea: maybe we can make them work a little longer until the bus arrives.

Where do they go?
Let me think. To the beach perhaps?


I*maginate, thank you for sharing your deep insights and even deeper blogging concerns for labourers.

i*maginate said...

nick, you're more than welcome.

It doesn't hurt to stop and think about those guys and what they endure in the heat, topped off by waiting for late buses to get them..um..home, wherever that is.

If you ran a construction company, would you do things differently, and how?

Anonymous said...

If you ran a construction company by paying decent wages, provide acceptable accommodation and transportation, made sure sites were safe for everyone, and built top quality buildings, then you'd be out of business really fast because you'd be priced out of the market. That doesn't make what some companies are doing right, but I think it's the reality right now.

I think waiting a bit for the bus is the least of the laborers' problems.

Ibn Battuta said...

usually the most profound ideas are the simplest - just read some japanese haiku....

it is amazing though how easily we naturalize and accept situations and conditions that are in fact highly exploitative.

n dubai it seems, one has to put on a lot of blinders to live the good life. dubai's vision is to attempt to sweep harsh realities under the carpet/sand, but laborers sitting along the road are cracks in the mirror. you would think the benevolent rulers would want them whisked away so there are no reminders that they even exist.

perhaps what dubai needs is a series of underground tunnels - like in disneyworld - where the employees can move about without being seen by the tourists spending all their money!

i*maginate said...

anon 15:20, excellent points. I just don't think it will happen any time soon. What are decent wages though? Maids earn about Dhs. 1000 here. What should a labourer be paid then?

I feel if labourers would be paid *just a little* more, they might do a better job. Same goes for those who are their immediate supervisors. No doubt this would result in better quality. I've seen one "luxury" building in particular where once you pass the lobby, the poor quality is instantly visible. Not good for the buyers either. It's a chain effect.

The bus point I made is hardly a reflection of their total worries, but if companies can do one just one thing & provide transport on time (not very difficult to do!), that would respect the already limited time labourers have when their duty is finished!

Anonymous said...

This is really is a classic I*maginate post.

Hmmmmm I wonder? 'Why do they wait?, Where do they go?'

If you still don't know the answers to these questions you really are more stupid then you appear.

i*maginate said...

They're rhetorical questions, with due respect: you moron hiding under an anon identity!

nick said...

i*maginate,

If you ran a construction company, would you do things differently, and how?

Actually, I am in construction, and that's why I have to almost entirely agree with Anon @ 15:20

BUT I am afraid I have to diss the usual tedious argument that goes as such: ...this would result in better quality. I've seen one "luxury" building in particular where once you pass the lobby, the poor quality is instantly visible., and the like.

Look, i*maginate:

Contrary to common belief, it is NOT the contractors who are primarily responsible for built quality. I know that may sound crazy to the layman but let me explain - because the issue is much more 'contentious' than you may realize.

Contractors build to a standard and level of quality that is being defined as terms of a contract. There are no universal set rules as to what constitutes "good quality". Contractors are at the receiving end of directives as defined by the Client, and his/her professional consultant advisors; primarily architects, engineers, surveyors, and lawyers.

Thus, quality is either demanded, and paid for by the Client, and becomes a condition and term of the contract to which the contractor is legally bound, or not.

It is the supervising consultants and contract administrators who have to direct, inspect and control the contractor's adherence to these terms and demand compliance = it is the Client and his team whose part of the deal is to hold the contractor to delivering the pre-defined quality, not the contractor alone, who of course must hold up his end of the deal (contract).

The shoddy built quality which can relate to specification of inappropriate materials, bad or incomplete design or inadequate or incompetent installation and which you can see all across Dubai / the Emirates / the world stems from:

a) the Client not being interested in good quality, which has its price (both materials and workmanship)
b) the consultants producing bad design which is difficult / impossible to build, and giving incomplete or incompetent or plain wrong advice to the Client WRT definition of quality standards (specifications)
c) the consultants being incompetent WRT inspection, supervision of works, QA/QC and subsequent enforcement toward the contractor
d) contractors being squeezed by Clients/ consultants who move goalposts and withhold due payments
e) clients not paying in time, and contractors cutting corners to make ends meet
f) incompetence of contractors, combined with incompetence of clients who do not realize their responsibilities under a construction contract
g) irresponsible and incompetent Western expat consultant Arseholes (myself excluded of course) who do not realize that working in the UAE actually demands a lot more conscience and dedication and due diligence that in the West, because the other 70% of the team may have 'very different views' of what constitutes professional behaviour (if at all they have).
h) What I call the "economy class Arabs", those arrogant and conceited Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, Jordanian fuckwits of so-called ‘site engineers’ with second or third class degrees from provincial redneck shit universities in Virginia or Ohio but who in reality are just pathetic bean counters of millimeter dimensions and do not really KNOW what contract law means, and that is IF at all they manage to write one sentence in English without horrendous spelling mistakes, AND I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE HERE.


That’s construction business for you, dear.

WRT to labourers and the so-called exploitation – I shall shatter this myth later on today once I cooled down a bit.

rosh said...

Anon 16:23 - your comment has been deleted. Refrain from profanities, please.

rosh said...

Quite an interesting set of points Nick - gives much insight to common man.

Points (a)to(f) - I would think are perhaps universal? Are they any different compared to ways of working in your home country or "practicalities" within global best practices?

i*maginate said...

*nick, please don't go blasting me next time if you didn't understand this post is as serious as the answer you've just given, which has certainly shed light on the reality of the construction industry and what contributes to "poor quality" as such. Thanks for the interesting response.

I've read through all your points, and at the end of the day, *someone* is still responsible for the poor quality. For me, it looks like the contractors are at fault, technically speaking, but literally, these guys have been *contracted* by clients/consultants.

Btw I just remembered after I posed you that question that you are actually in the construction industry.

Does this really happen all over the world or mostly regionally?

I still think if all those below management level were paid better, it obviously implies they have better skills, and are properly qualified, as you point out they are *not*. I relate to your points on the lack of professionalism in the region - unfortunately the ramifications of not being able to execute projects as a team in *construction* obviously has effects on the way the building is made!

I want to know if this "non-payment" issue is regional, or if it happens elsewhere?

Is there any kind of "construction association" in Dubai? I think it would be good PR/CSR for companies to set standards, and be seen to be doing so.

To my knowledge, there are very few property developers whose buildings are truly luxurious in terms of quality and finish. Why is this, nick? How come they can do it and others don't?

nick said...

@ rosh,

Points (a)to(f) - I would think are perhaps universal?

Some of the points I made are universal because it is man's nature to fuck up or try to maximise profit.

BUT there are extensive legal safeguards and consequently, if something goes wrong, legal consequences for Clients, Consultants and contractors alike.

e.g. In Europe, the end user (owner or tenant) of a new building will be beneficiary of a collateral (Third party)warranty for serious defects etc., and provision of such warranties is the law and so developers cannot avoid that.

Another example, registered consultants are bound by chartered professional code of conducts, in addition to having to maintain adequate preofessional liability insurance. If serious omission or errors or wilful incompetence is proven, there goes your registration and right to practice!

Another example, there are legal provisions in most construction contracts in Europe for prompt payment between parties - there's no way for a client around paying. You have a contract, you are going to pay, full stop. If as Client you feel wronged you can seek damages after completion but you cannot simply stop or withhold payment.

nick said...

@ i*maginate,

I think some of your questions were covered by my answer to rosh which I was typing just as you posted.

To my knowledge, there are very few property developers whose buildings are truly luxurious in terms of quality and finish. Why is this, nick? How come they can do it and others don't?

IMHO there is not a single building I have seen in Dubai, and I have seen lots, that can hold the water to European standards. Some are better than others, but all replace quality with quantity.
And sadly, that sells. Bigger-is- better is Dubai's middle name if it had one.

Here's why:
It's much cheaper to build an apartment that is 100 sqft larger than to build one that is 100sqft smaller but has better tiles and a sturdier wardrobe and kitchen cabinet hinges.
BUT, sales values are set roughly per squarefoot, not the quality of finishes which you may not be able to see at first. A developer who provides the best quality makes less profit than those who don't.

Isn't it funny how cheap hinges just go wonkey after maybe one year - just as the defect liability period expires...?

I always have a good laugh at that!

i*maginate said...

"Isn't it funny how cheap hinges just go wonkey after maybe one year - just as the defect liability period expires...?"

Once the Chinese hinges start falling off and the shower head explodes, you know you've got a problem. I just hope the balconies are fixed in the right places!

How come, if the last payments are usually withheld, don't contractors stop work? Isn't this a surefire way of getting paid rather than completing then going through lengthy legal processes? Or do contractors here mark-up an allowance for non-payment?

Have you seen some of the newish buildings in AD? Some of them are really good in terms of finish.

ROI in construction is about 70% - is that right? As long as these buildings sell and the profits are good, I guess no-one's complaining about build quality but the end-users. The thing is, you wouldn't find much change if you moved buildings. Shiny Chinese hinges would still welcome you on your front door.

rosh said...

"BUT there are extensive legal safeguards and consequently, if something goes wrong, legal consequences for Clients, Consultants and contractors alike."

And such measures are not present in the UAE? It's an honest question - I would think there are measures in place, perhaps not as enforceable/transparent?

Back to the point of this post - given your experience in the UAE, which set of individuals need to be better regulated within a building construction chain i.e. starting from clients, contractors, sub-contractors to labourers to ensure least fortunate are not continuously exploited?

russells@teapot said...

In some European countries construction workers get bad-weather money according to the labor law. That means: Wages without working and concerns to 3 months during winter-time when buivlding is stopped. The UAE could adapt this for hot summer-time. People would be happy.

nick said...

last things first
@ russel,

In some European countries construction workers get bad-weather money according to the labor law. That means: Wages without working

Not true if presented like this.
'Bad weather money' exists, but that's only a supplement for those who already work on a site, i.e. in extremly cold weather.
What you probably mean is that workers and tradesmen are often retained by contractors during winter months when there is less work. That's true, if only for a few trades, but that is not 'bad weather money' but simply downtime retainer wages.

This applies less and less because today most workers and tradesmen are subcontracted by agencies, or one-person companies themselves, mostly for tax reasons, and lastly, construction NEVER stops.

There is simply no winter break with workers sitting around. Internal finishing continues at all temperatures etc.

Ibn Battuta said...

this is actually a bit of an educational thread. of course, if you ask me, developers and contractors are generally some of the most corrupt - not you, of course, nick (nor my relatives in the industry).

however, i'm more curious about the debunking of the myth of the "so-called exploitation" of laborers! this should be a good one....

nick said...

@ rosh,
And such measures are not present in the UAE? It's an honest question - I would think there are measures in place, perhaps not as enforceable/transparent?

Any contractor who signs up to a contract without payment provisions and terms is a dimwit who deserves to be screwed twice over. Yes, there are clauses and terms and under contract law you'd be, if not protected but at least entitled to redress. In theory, and in accordance to your wasta.

However what is not existant is a statutory underpinning of these contractual relations between two parties. E.g., there is in the UK the 'Housing construction, grants and regeneration act' i.e. a law by statute which guarantees far terms among other things regarding payment in a contract scenario (which would otherwise not be subject to criminal law).
--------------------
which set of individuals need to be better regulated within a building construction chain i.e. starting from clients, contractors, sub-contractors to labourers to ensure least fortunate are not continuously exploited?

I think you glean the answer from my previous answer: the lack of regulation is a lack of laws. Regulations are merely guidelines on how to comply with a law. This makes it easier to revise and amend regulations, e.g. by ministers, as oposed to change or amend laws which would require an 'act' by parliament.
I suppose here in Dubai you have to substitute this by 'on order by...you knwo who'

By the 'least fortunate' I assume you mean the labourers. They would need to be protected first of all by themselves (by use of brain) and against themselves (by not undercutting themselves) against exploitation.

I am afraid everybody here except our dear local friends is legally exposed to exploitation, by the absence of laws and pursuant regulations. It is a capitalist free market laid bare, without safety net.

The trouble is that Human Rights can only be demanded where they have been enscribed in a country's constitution as inalienable and absolute right. If they haven't, then you are back to the contract law scenario I described above, where the absence of statutory law leaves the two contract parties to their own devices - and negotiating skills.

This is exactly the situation here in the UAE (but I am happy to stand corrected, in case):
You have an asymmetric negotiation between the government who invites people to come and live here, and determines the rules of the game. On the other hand you have us expats who either accept the rules (= absence of legal protection), or not. If we accept, and the labourers do, then the contract is deemed accepted and enforcable ONLY under its terms, and not against absolute benchmarks. Plainly speaking, if you accept to live and work here, you waive some of your Human Rights.

Take it or leave it, tough titties.

nick said...

ehm, BTW, I am not happy about this situation, it grates me for my own sake, but I did sign on the dotted line....

nick said...

i*maginate,
How come, if the last payments are usually withheld, don't contractors stop work?

a) that's a retention of between 5 and 10% only, so not that much really to make a difference

b) as a contractor you are not allowed to stop work unless terms of the contract are violated or the contract is terminated (under certain conditions). The retaining of retention money is not a cause for suspension of work.

c) Lately, contractors actually get paid pretty swiftly. Why, because there is so much work around that Clients actually have to bribe and beg contractors to build for them!! I just love it.


Geez, this is getting really technical here, I should bill you for this!

---------------
newish buildings in AD? Some of them are really good

Yeah, one of them was completed two years ago (on thr Corniche) and hasn't opened because it's unsafe. Oops.
----------------------

ROI in construction is about 70% - is that right? As long as these buildings sell and the profits are good, I guess no-one's complaining about build quality but the end-users.

I think you mean ROI on developments, not construction? sadly, these days are long gone. If as a develeoper you make 35-40% within two years, i.e. about 20% p.a., maybe more, then you'd be lucky.

I can hear you: 20% p.a. !!! Woaw, rich bastards!

It's a big risk and it's nt easy money. Ask youself, if you had 50 or 80m Dhs cash (to start off a 300m development) would you put your arse on the line for 20% -25% p.a., or just be happy?

russells@teapot said...

Hallo nick,

am far from being educational but in Germany the bad-weather money is payed by unemployment insurance which is financed by employers, employees and in hard times by state as well. You are right saying, that it's paid only to those who have already an labor contract and the money is smaller compared to regular wages. o.k.? Unfortunately I can't give you the sources, coz it's all in German language. ciau ciau

nick said...

@ Ibn,

if you ask me, developers and contractors are generally some of the most corrupt

That's a fine slander,..fanks mate.

It's a myth, get over it.

Yes, there is the Mafia in Italy and USof A who clinched some exaggerated contracts, there is a fair amount of corruption by distorting tender information and selective bidding etc etc.
BUT not more than in any other line of business.

-------------

Corruption, now where have I heard that before...?

Ah, UN oil for food, anyone? African countries? Arms merchants, Prince Bandar? Hello?

I think compared to these guys, contractors are angels.

i*maginate said...

Yes, you can bill me. Wait, you're asking for commission before a contract is signed? ;)

*ibn = "developers and contractors are generally some of the most corrupt"

Umm...compared to what? Corruption exists in all kinds of industries. It's not a new thing. I still believe it's unethical, though.

*nick again = "Any contractor who signs up to a contract without payment provisions and terms is a dimwit who deserves to be screwed twice over"

point b) On the one hand you say companies get screwed over here, then you're saying they deserve it. Perhaps since it's known that the last payment is deferred, contractors deliberately leave this clause out, knowing they'll get "screwed", or, on the other hand, they're desperate for the work? Obviously from your insight it seems the clients are desperate for the contractors, so why don't they put themselves in a position of power and dictate the terms? Damn if no-one cares about build quality and it's down to money, why on earth would they not protect their rights to get paid?

point a) A contract is a contract, in my opinion. If payment terms (if there are any) are violated, it's a breach of the contract. Now imagine you have 20 clients that have withheld 5% payment. If I ran a construction company, I would endeavour to "set standards" and get my clients to fulfil the contract terms, but then again, it's easier saying that if I'm not in the business: I bet there are loads of "ins and outs" you haven't addressed.

point c) I don't agree with "bribes" - though if that is how things are done here, it's all the companies that think it's ok to take bribes that makes it "acceptable" - unfortunately.

No, I was talking about ROI in the construction industry. I thought it's 70%

Anyway you'll get a handsome commission if I ever decide to set foot in the construction industry.

It's a messy business, certainly not easy for the reasons you've described.

P.S. please answer this: how come the construction industry is dominated by men?

fellow atheist said...

Wow.. this went from a boring post to one of the most interesting discussions on this blog. Thank you nick!

I am very curious about point (e) and the lack of payments. I think this is extremely common here. How do you work around it? Even if you were to stop working.. I know all the major developers don't pay on time. I'm talking Emaar, Dubai Properties, etc. so what do you do when the big boys don't pay? You would be out of the job, whether it's in the contract or not.

Am I missing something here?

i*maginate said...

fellow atheist, I know you don't agree with most of my views, but you're letting your ego get in the way here. I started the post here mate. Boring to you, but interesting to most, judging from the comments, including yours.

All credit to nick, an insider in the industry that is no. 1 in Dubai. He puts his views accross splendidly, and he's given a well-needed insight into his industry with his points.

Now: as for your points, specifically re: "You would be out of the job, whether it's in the contract or not." - I'm also awaiting nick's response here. On the one hand, he says contractors are willing to defer on the last payment (for whatever reason) and then says contractors are "bribed" by clients.

Seems to me contractors would not be "out of a job" if they are in such high demand by the "big boys" you refer to.

Anonymous said...

No, i*maginate, not really interesting to most. Nick started the interesting part of the debate.

:)

i*maginate said...

No debate without no post ;)

rosh said...

"I'm talking Emaar, Dubai Properties, etc. so what do you do when the big boys don't pay? You would be out of the job, whether it's in the contract or not. "

FE: I think for the most part, each party is on credit i.e. from the top, down the chain.

EMAAR or governments often are slow payers, universally, not just UAE or construction. The "clout" of deep pocketed governments translates to juicer credit terms. Start up costs often, are borrowed bank funds and/or from one's piggy bank.

nick said...

i*maginate,

You are posting at 01:38 am - don't you have to go to school tomorrow??

:) Thanks for starting this post. I know you just play stupid to tease us. It sure brings out the best in me.

So then. (I am going to bill this blogging time to a Client as ‘research’.)


point b) On the one hand you say companies get screwed over here, then you're saying they deserve it.

As the saying goes: 'You fool me once, shame on you, you fool me twice, shame on me.’

There are lawyers out there; Well paid whores who are there to help you negotiate enforceable terms. Everyone needs whores, sometimes.

Contracts are in theory meant to be equitable to both parties (LOL).
No party is meant to dictate unfair terms.
In the real world however, the client has the stick because he is the one who has the money and it travels in one direction and he wants to make sure he gets something for it.
In the absence of laws and regulations it becomes an asymmetric negotiation scenario:

There are contractors who are desperate for work and accept unfair terms, but that’s their (bad) business.
It’s a Darwinist environment. Those contractors who are desperate for work are the bad ones, get screwed and the downward spiral or bribery, cutting corners, unprofessional practices, shoddy quality etc. begins until nobody gives them work anymore. WE KNOW WHO THEY ARE.


You say he says contractors are willing to defer on the last payment.

No, I didn’t. They could try, but it won’t happen. No contractor could “leave the (retention money) clause out” as you suggest. It’s there for a reason, to safeguard delivery and everybody accepts it and it keeps contractors on their toes. It goes hand in hand with the ‘performance bond’ which the contractor has to provide to the client at the very beginning, and which is not in its entirety released until final account.

But anyway, that’s a strawman argument you are building here: I said already that the problem is NOT the retention.

One of the biggest problems is the non payment of payments due. This is a pain in the arse. because payment is not simply withheld and period. No, it’s pseudo legalese claptrap and circumlocutory strawman arguments by the Client’s representative consultants and surveyors, anything at all to stretch the payment certification process and to avoid having to pay on time.

So what to do?

Everybody, and that includes consultants are front loading their payment schedules. Since we know that clients are going to try and screw us, we screw them at the beginning and the beauty is they don’t realize it because everyone is doing it. LOL.

Secondly, you include clauses like ‘paid if/ paid when’ which protects the contractor to be out of pocket. It places a pressure on the client because if he doesn’t pay the contractor, the contractor doesn’t pay the subcontractor, the subcontractor doesn’t pay the supplier, the supplier doesn’t pay the freight forwarder…..and the client is left in the lurch.

BUT not all Clients are like that. Good Clients regard paying consultants and contractor as an incentive to finish work fast. Clever clients see the advantage of that.

Once things go wrong they wrong well, it’s a Gordian knot to disentangle the claims after completion. I know of several cases here in Dubai where contractors and clients are engaged in litigation for two, three, five years after completion.


please answer this: how come the construction industry is dominated by men?

So that we don’t have to spend two hours every day explaining it to the girls…


Apart from that any woman is more than welcome to join the industry. Provided they:

are racist enough to enjoy good jokes
can scratch their crotch repeatedly
smoke
drink beer in large quantities
shout across portacabins
piss in portaloos
don’t mind their blouses getting dirty and soaked in sweat (I wouldn’t mind seeing that)
don’t mind wearing protective footwear fifty times heavier than the ‘Manolos’
don’t mind wearing hardhats which would ruin their ‘hair’

OR:

don’t mind spending their days with men who do any of the above.

> Give me call on: 04-226 2895

nick said...

Exploitation of Labourers – debunked

What constitutes exploitation?

Although ‘exploitation’ and ‘abuse’ are often being used synonymously, there is a fine difference. Abuse is far wider reaching a term than exploitation.

Exploitation means to make best use of something to one’s own advantage. Now, since when is that a crime? We all exploit opportunities, resources, loopholes for our benefit. I would therefore equate abuse with ‘unfair exploitation’.

When coming to the UAE, all expats sign up to a ‘contract’ as it were. We all waive some rights which are deemed absolute human rights in most western countries, but which are not part of the UAE legal framework (yet?).

We are deemed to have accepted the terms and conditions of the ‘contract’ as two parties.

The expectation that the Middle East shares the same values as we in the West is simply misguided. Human rights are internationally applicable, but not entirely. Labour rights are not international. Work contracts are NOT international. Standards of labourer accommodation are NOT international. Health & Safety standards are NOT international.

It is a myth and so-called ‘Orientalist’ view to expect that everyone in this world, and in particular in the Middle East, wants to be a middle class American and live his life accordingly. This is an incorrect outsider interpretation, and the big flaw of Human Rights Watch, or mafiwasta.com - the unwarranted benchmarking and subsequent assessment according to their own standards.

As an expat, I cannot complain that I cannot vote. I cannot complain that I cannot freely criticize the government. I cannot complain that I cannot freely inquire about or criticize Islam. I cannot complain that I am a dhimmi and subject to disadvantages.

If I don’t like it, I can piss up the tree and try to rock the boat, or leave, but I cannot demand change. (Apropos, conversely I cannot accept the inverted, shall we call it ‘occidentialist ?’ demands of perceived entitlements by Muslims in Europe, who want to impose their way of life on us, but that’s another discourse altogether.)

Application of labour rights can therefore only be measured against the existing legal framework in the country in question, but not against absolute benchmarks.


Comparative advantage

Every expat comes here to do what he is best at for a high enough remuneration.
No western expat comes to the UAE to earn less than what he earned at home.
No Indian expat comes to the UAE to earn less than what he earned at home.
[Arab expats come here for different reasons entirely, so let’s leave them aside for now.]

Any employer / client will only pay as much as necessary to get what he needs and wants. South Indian labourers still find it worthwhile to come to the Gulf for work.
Why, that’s their business – we are not here to address the poverty, oppression, discrimination of Indian rural life.

So why pay them more? They are good enough at labouring, why pay them more than necessary? Why pay them as much as an English bricklayer? Or a German carpenter?

As you need lots of labourers (quantity), you cannot pay more and the only ones who offer themselves are the South Indians.

In terms of numbers, executives and managers are very few (quality), but you need the best you can get. As an employer / client you have to meet the salary expectations. Compared to the overhead and salary costs for unskilled / low skilled labour, the cost of for management is actually negligible.


Conclusion


1) Every expat comes here by free will to earn as much as he’s worth.

2) As expats we have to comply with the ‘contract’ and its terms and conditions. Anything else is akin to ‘Sour grapes’. We made the bed, now we have to sleep in it.

3) Ignorance (of contract terms etc.) is no excuse before the law.

4) Unfair exploitation happens if the terms of the contract are being fitfully and unilaterally changed.

5) If 4) happens, has to be addressed and curbed.

6) Point 5) is the government’s responsibility if it happens within their jurisdiction.

7) Abuse / unfair exploitation of labourers in their country of origin is not the UAE’s primary concern.
NB: it WOULD be if the UAE were a western democratic nation doing business with another western democratic country because there is a common set of rules. Engagement with non-democratic countries like the UAE are subject to different set of rules entirely. It is therefore the responsibility of India to enforce protection and end unfair exploitation of their labourers in India and the UAE, not the other way round.



Things are changing. New standard labour contracts are being drafted by the embassies of the countries of provenance of most labourers, and there is talk of trade unions being allowed soon.

(Gulf) Arabs are posers.
To use/ appeal to the honour-shame culture in the world wide media is the only way to shame Dubai into action. If you court international attention as Dubai does it must be prepared for scrutiny and criticism.

There is nothing Dubai loves more than looking good on the world stage. The CNN report on the Burj Dubai strike of 3,000 labourers in 2006 didn’t go down well with the rulers, I promise you that.

Voila’ – change is on the hands!

localexpat said...

Very well said nick. Thanks for this interesting insight into the construction industry.

There is one point I have to disagree with you. You might " When coming to the UAE, .... sign up to a ‘contract’ as it were.... waive some rights which are deemed absolute human rights ....but which are not part of the UAE legal framework ." .

This, however, does not in any way justify the inhumane treatment dished out to these individuals. No matter how you define 'inhumane treatment' there are some universally accepted understandings of what is considered to be cruel and unethical treatment of a human being; irrespective of a persons ideology, background, education or culture. Additionally, there is fundamental flaw in your statement. You and I might be able to comprehend a contract presented to us. But I doubt if most of the labourers are presented with a contract to sign, firstly, and more importantly, I truly doubt if they understand them.

I understand there is a reason why so many people from the subcontinent would want to come here to work as labourers: they get paid a substantially higher income than in their home countries. And I think people will have to be stupid to ask them to be paid upper-middle class remuneration package. But just because they are 'dying to get here' doesn't mean that they have to be treated as slaves.

Being in the construction industry, I am sure you have visited a few labour camps. I have seen a few as well. Some are 'ok' places. But most of them are horrendous. And you only have to see a few of these places to understand what I mean by 'treated as slaves'

Anyway, that my 2 cents.... :-)

Anonymous said...

Why cant their own government take any action?

nick said...

@ Localexpat,

Additionally, there is fundamental flaw in your statement. You and I might be able to comprehend a contract presented to us. But I doubt if most of the labourers...

Well, that's not a flaw in my statement; that's a flaw in the legislation, both in India as well as in the UAE. Ignorance is no excuse before the law.
Now, most countries have safeguards to protect ignorant people from being taken for a ride.

So, as Anonymous ^ alludes, the Indian government and its representation here, the embassy or consulate should ensure fair treatment of its citizens.

Why they don't / didn't, that's another story entirely.....

Anonymous said...

Well said localexpat

Nick comes from the thickest part of the capitalist jungle where the fittest will survive and perhaps even cannibalism is approved as qualtities of a very successful "organism". The only way to make nick see thing any other than his own, is brute force, someone bigger and meaner pushing his face in the dirt. And that unfortunately is the way of the world these days. Might is right! Looks like the poor folks have been left to fend for themselves. But then never lose hope and keep the faith!

Ibn Battuta said...

“The latest report from the corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) singles out the global construction industry for special scrutiny. In a report released on 16 March, the group identifies the 3-trillion-dollar construction industry as the most corrupt segment of the world economy. And it says the cost of this corruption is more than just wasted money. Corruption can lead to shoddy workmanship, which in turn can damage the environment and even cost lives. RFE/RL spoke to Transparency International's chief executive.”

http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/03/cf4e62f0-006d-4d20-a131-fd18dfed99c3.html

as for the exploitation argument, let me get this right - slavery, prior to 1838 in the UK and 1865 in the US was not exploitative because it was legal and the law is above any absolute sense of human rights? Hmmmmm, that’s a tough sell!

nick said...

Ibn,

Knowingly and against all best practice, I cite from the interview conducted in a moonbat medium, and not the report itself. I will study the report and shall fisk your argumentation/ insinuations later. You even got the interview wrong. Transparency Int'l makes it clear that they were concentrating on construction that year because of a wave pf public contracts for disaster relief projects, which means public contracts which are obviously subject to lobbying and political sleaze. Not that anything has actually been proven - oh no.
Transparency Int'l builds their data on a so-called corruption perception index. They just go round asking people how they perceive corruption in their countries. That's about as scientific as you are, Ibn.
Not.

From the article / interview:

...singles out the global construction industry for special scrutiny.

For special scrutiny means it is supected that there may be corruption. As I said before, TI made it a point that year to look at construction.
This DOES NOT mean that construction has been proven to be amongst all industries the most corrupt ever.

Transparency International's chief executive, David Nussbaum, says the construction industry -- among all segments of the economy -- is uniquely prone to corrupt practices.

Uniquely prone means exactly that. PRONE.
NOT Proven to be. Of course, you didn't fully mention that, did you?

Look Ibn, I knwo you have an agenda, aka Moonbat bullshit - please do us a favour and declare that right from the start and don't attempt to mislead in such a pathetic manner and save me the tie debunking your slanderous arguments.

i*maginate said...

My goodness mate, we have a lot of points to cover. I won't be writing a whole essay at once, I'll cover a few interesting things you've said, while I'm taking the time off school.

"There are lawyers out there; Well paid whores"

You don't respect lawyers? They're the core of "fairness" when it comes to "unfair" clients. Why do you class lawyers as such? They help by defining legal terms. After that, it's the courts.

"the client has the stick because he is the one who has the money"

but you said it's the contractors who are in demand. isn't it then the contractors whose work is in demand, and who, therefore, can demand payment when it's due?

"keeps contractors on their toes/performance bond"

Why are contractors in this position when they're so much in demand?

Doesn't make sense to me re: law of "supply & demand" as long as the contract reflects contractors' priveleges, mainly "you must pay us x amount when x is completed, on about this date, when so-&-so is done"


"I said already that the problem is NOT the retention.

One of the biggest problems is the non payment of payments due."

Please can you clarify? The two sentences seem contradictory?


"BUT not all Clients are like that. Good Clients regard paying consultants and contractor as an incentive to finish work fast. Clever clients see the advantage of that.""

Don't agree with that in theory (noting I'm not yet a construction boss yet, unlike you)

It's about $, isn't it? The faster the project is completed, the happier everyone is. And provided the client pays, the project is completed. Obviously not, according to what you're saying.

Is all what you've written your opinion, or your experience? Would clear things up if you responded to this Q.

As for my Q: "how come the construction industry is dominated by men?":

There are probably not enough women to fit the criteria you've outlined. Factual explanation for the lack of women in your field. Wonder what the retention rate is for women who nearly passed the test, then failed because of men's habits, as you've outlined.

SevenSummits said...

Nick,
Thanks for taking all this time to explain such an interesting topic to the general public. Wow – I can see that not only scientists get utterly frustrated when working in this region :- ) – really enjoyed your points and there is just so much truth in them.
Mmmh - guess you would enjoy Norway, Switzerland or Germany for a more relaxing work environment.

How on earth did you derive to this distorted image of females???? Ah yeah, must be the influence of your geographical surroundings. Let me assure you that there are lots of women that can live with the points you mentioned and in the Western world we have countless women that are doing very dirty jobs to earn a living. For instance the majority of German expert consultants you will find in the most difficult countries on this earth are female – no power, no water, lots of diseases and roaches for kicks. Besides women rebuild our country after total destruction – and they did not do such a bad job after all. :- )

When it comes to the comment of IBN Battuta, I honestly laughed. (I will try to put the rest into simple words …. Hope the point does not loose its complexity)
I happen to know the founder Peter Eigen of Transparency International (TI) personally and can assure that he is a lovely old man, whom I respect a lot for his notable philanthropic engagement. Yet, I have some serious concerns about the work of TI, since as you already mentioned, their work relies on some questionable scientific methods. A few years ago Peter told me that Nigeria is on its way to becoming a truly democratic nation and that the level of corruption is going down – I was so shocked about these comments and we have recently all witnessed the outcome in this failed state. While TI is coming up with some honestly strange evaluations, corruption is thriving at an unprecedented scale and roughly around 130 Mio people are suffering from less than 1 USD per day in this extremely instable country. This simple example leaves room to wonder, if political and economic interests are playing a role in TIs work and constitutes just one of those instruments we use to advertise our misguided foreign policies. (just look at their funding and their connections to the World Bank)

For IBN BATTUTA: Please do not take this as criticism, because I honestly appreciate your efforts to take a closer look and reason with solid arguments. However please be very careful with the work of certain institutions (among these are also for instance WWF, Amnesty International, Greenpeace and many others), not everything they do and say is correct – regardless of how much we all appreciate some of their work - and you should always take a critical standpoint in regards to their publications.

Cheers and LOL from Germany

nick said...

@ sevensummits,

I doubt I would enjoy working in Norway or Germany. One reason is that people wouldn't get my pulling their legs about women in the construction industry....

You are in fact a good point in case of Teutonic 'sense of humour'.

'Zis is werry chovinist, YES?!!

Secondly, I wouldn't want any women around me who actually do all the things I jokingly insinuated.

I much prefer a juicy Lebanese PA to a beer swilling Deutsche Frau plumber with hairy armpits.

But maybe that's just me.

I must concur however with your advice to Mr. Moonbat Ibn WRT to NGO agencies like AI and Transparency International. It only makes sense to draw information from these sources if one also listens to the other, rightwing side, such as www.freedomhouse.org.

The truth, as always is somewhere in the middle.

nick said...

i*maginate, Howayyamate. A'wight?

Having come back from the beach just now to my beautiful villa in Jumeirah paid for by exploitation of an entire Indian village, in my big 4x4, bright and sparkling due to exploitation of an entire Pasthun mountain range - I am in a mellow and reconciliatory mood.

Lawyers - what would we do without them? I love them, in fact. There has never been a profession so beautifully candid about their lack of ethics. What you see is what you get, they are at your disposalto fulfil your most deranged and exploitative dreams. Like whores. In nice suits.

They are the only true friends a businessmen has. I don't mind paying them at all, as long as the result is in my benefit.

Otherwise I would despise them.


WRT to your other comments about retention money and non payments - it's too complicated to explain further.
Let it suffice to say that nothing actually works out exactly as the contract intends, EVERYBODY screws up sooner or later during the complex process of putting together something our of nothing by means of remarkably archaic techniques and brainpower.

Let if suffice to say that as long as sucker like you pay for the buildings we make, everything is in fact in a state of carefully balanced harmony between clients, consultants and contractors - despite the obvious quarrels and litigation. That's just called 'the industry'.

And yes, that's my opinion formed in several years of experience in Europe, the UK, UAE and India.

SevenSummits said...

Nick,
You truly are a congenial chauvinist pxx and that would make two of us :-) (must have definitely spent to much time with those guys in uniform – blame it on my social environment) Anyhow, if I would have to make a choice, I would also prefer the juicy Lebanese (only if she is a real blonde of course!) over just any woman with hairy armpits – brrr the thought is simply disgusting, but you are aware that German chicks stopped practicing this hideous habit roughly about 35 years ago? Reminds me of a funny story an Emirati once told me – poor fellow must have met one relict of the sixties generation and had the shock of his life.

BTW the Teutonic 'sense of humor' (rather a Viking “sense of humor’ in my case) got subsistuted with an African “sense of humor”, after spending more than 30years partly in SSA and adjusting accordingly (they would define it as “Bush Eubo”), so no need to worry.

Cheers

PS: Lots of corrupt German construction companies around in Africa :-(, but you can tell which part of the highway was done by Germans, which by the equally corrupt Italians - mmmh and after a strip of potholes you start disliking Lebanese males :-)

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