07 August, 2007

The Whole World is Watching (yet again)...

"They say we are the richest men in our village, Ahmed. So why is it that I can't afford a can of coke?"

From today's NEW YORK TIMES (registration may be required):

"DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — They still wake before dawn in desert dormitories that pack a dozen men or more to a room. They still pour concrete and tie steel rods in temperatures that top 110 degrees. They still spend years away from families in India and Pakistan to earn about $1 an hour. They remain bonded to employers under terms that critics liken to indentured servitude.

But construction workers, a million strong here and famously mistreated, have won some humble victories.

After several years of unprecedented labor unrest, the government is seeking peace with this army of sweat-stained migrants who make local citizens a minority in their own country and sustain one of the world’s great building booms. Regulators here have enforced midday sun breaks, improved health benefits, upgraded living conditions and cracked down on employers brazen enough to stop paying workers at all.

The results form a portrait of halting change in a region synonymous with foreign labor and, for many years, labor abuse.

Many rich countries, including the United States, rely on cheap foreign workers. But no country is as dependent as the United Arab Emirates, where foreigners make up about 85 percent of the population and 99 percent of the private work force. From bankers to barbers, there are 4.5 million foreigners here, compared with 800,000 Emirati citizens, according to the Ministry of Labor. About two-thirds of the foreigners are South Asians, including most of the 1.2 million construction workers.

The labor agitation came as a surprise in this city of glass towers and marble-tiled malls where social harmony is part of the marketing plan and political action can seem all but extinct. But when thousands of migrant construction workers walked off the job last year, blocking traffic and smashing parked cars, it became clear that the nonnatives were restless."

Okay, no news to us -- most of us have read or at least heard of the HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT on how South Asian construction workers are exploited and conned. But will it actually matter now that the rest of the world is aware of it?

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

But will it actually matter now that the rest of the world is aware of it?

Let’s hope so. The other alternative is appalling to contemplate.

Simultaneously, new measures announced, bearing a direct consequential response to this line:

PR: You guys are fired. Start looking for another job.

Engineering: Rein in your workforce or start looking for another job.

Law Enforcement: Finger print, toe print, & map DNA’s of all perps or start looking for another job.

Anonymous said...

Well, I will be a devil's advocate and say the following:

1) If they dont like it, why dont they leave?

2) Those who write these articles are jealous of UAE's incredible progress over the last 30 years.

Anonymous said...

Those who write these articles are jealous of UAE's incredible progress over the last 30 years.

What does the UAE's progress have to do with these articles?

Are you implying such articles are a figment of someone's imagination?

jomster said...

"Some come from backgrounds so impoverished, he said, “they don’t know how to use the toilet; they will sit and do it on the ground.”

Right. And Al Kaabi, his father and his grandfather did it on their Neorest closet;-)

Anonymous said...

And the whole world watched the US invade Iraq, rape the women and shoot whoever they didn't like.

If you're so worried about labours outside your country, then why don't you go give them a hand instead of wasting your time with these useless posts that won't do them any good.

Again another stupid subject that will come up regarding maids then back to the labours.

This is something nobody can take any action against, if the authorities want to take care of them they would've done it long time.

So stop dreaming because you won't change anything.

Ignorants, illegals and crooks are all over the UAE, Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

For the apologists here who'd like to point out that everything is hunky dory in sandland while sitting inside their air conditioned range rover sport

Sonapur [~66MB]
Al Qouz Camps [~330MB]

Anonymous said...

Sonapur [~66MB]Al Qouz Camps [~330MB]

Anonymous said...

NYT login, in case you dont have an account
Username i_hate_logins
Password ihatelogins

Anonymous said...

heres one man who likes dubai

Joy be upon us all said...

Hallo together

1. thesis:
“Those who write these articles are jealous of UAE's incredible progress over the last 30 years.”

1.1. my reply:
This statement is wrong. The Western World is highly interested in the stable economical progress of the Arab World in order to make them earn money to be able to buy western products and services. Economical success in the Arab world is the best peace-working in the so called region of EuArabia. It will reduce the immigration pressure to Europe as well. Only armament manufacturers and their influential and discreet agents on purchaser side might be interested in less economical progress in order to profit from political crises. And finally I have to emphasize that a nations economical progress means a fair distribution of national income between all inhabitants and not the unjust enrichment of few fellow citizens. That would bring up a banana republic only.

2. thesis:
“Simultaneously, new measures announced, bearing a direct consequential response to these lines as follows” and “This is something nobody can take any action. So stop dreaming because you won't change anything. If the authorities want to take care of them they would've done it long time.”

2.1. my reply:
There is no example in history where social rights as - the most prominent – the right to unite in trade unions, to go on strike and to conclude wage agreements (not only dealing with wages only but with the whole bunch of working conditions) is given the working class by the state, the rich or the religion. The employees have to unite and fight for their rights themselves otherwise they won’t get one. A socialist party could only have a supporting part in the social development enforced by trade unions. What is given the employees from a patriarchic traditional system voluntary has always been mostly overdue charity but not just and fair rights.


3. thesis:
“If you're so worried about labours outside your country, then why don't you go give them a hand instead of wasting your time with these useless posts that won't do them any good.”

3.1. my reply:
How can Western countries do this peacefully unless using the power of mass media and global social conscience. Would you prefer to be conquered again because you declare not to be able to bring up social progress for your own country by your own power?
The employees in the Western Countries would mostly welcome a massive improvement of the working conditions in the Arab and Third World to bring the global working conditions and wages a bit more into line. o.k.

Where have you been during the history lessons at school or what did they told you?

Yours Joy

Joy be upon us all said...

Listen and learn!

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk69e1Vcmvg&mode=related&search=

Anonymous said...

so... were is the teacher of nothing, our Nick??
he is the master of all the subjects, specially this....
he can talk about Islam when he is not muslim, but he don't talk about this.... hey Nick.... we miss you

Anonymous said...

UAE is the only place for them. They are uneducated, the educated ones get over 100k dirham a month and spoiling the environment around them with fancy cars.

No one will accept them if they want to move to different country even the States.

The article above is another bullshit from new york times, the US has some wide base spanish minority who probably suffer even worse than those labors.

nick said...

@ Anon, 7 Aug, 14:46

Here’s me, at your service. I have it all before on this blog on 24 July 2007 so I save my breath. Here’s the link if you are interested:

Labourers in lament

Btw., talking about a religion even though one is not an adherent is called freedom of speech and expression.
Talking about Islam only if one is Muslim, or about Christianity only if one is Christian is called wanking.

Anonymous said...

To anon at 14:49, your statement is really moronic, isnt it?

Uneducated expats are laborers while educated ones get 100k a month?

What about the 75% who dotn fall into any of this category. And nice try trying to divert attention to Hispanics in the USA.

Anonymous said...

so there you are Nick!! and thanks to be at my service dear
you are right, you don´t need to be a muslim to talk about Islam, but you must respect our religion to talk freely, and it is about respect, not about freedom speech.
You have a great confusion so you should learn more. Don´t confuse our submission only and just to Allah , and that does not mean to be brainwashed... you must understand, respect and above all learn....it is the most important to live with muslim people... after all you are living between us ,and you are not living so bad.

Nick Nick... nice guy.... you will be smart some day

Joy be upon us all said...

Just to compare:

Each single immigrant in Germany being concerned with unemployment gets unemployment benefit paid out of the public tax revenue at a monthly height of € 380,00 cost of living plus the whole rent for a flat (including WC, kitchen and 2 rooms) plus additional costs (electricity, gas, garbage etc.) and free health insurance unlimited and including dentist treatment. They only have to cock for themselves and have the whole day leisure time. Families have a proportionally higher income support. That’s that minimum life guarantee by German Constitution. Now you can imagine what I’m working for from 01. January until 15. July every year. Wow.

And some are sooooooo thankful to practice even the Jihad during leisure time against me

Joy be upon us all said...

In addition.

If the immigrant holds a so called privileged “Minijob” ( € 1,00 until € 400,00 per month)” he hasn’t to pay any taxes or social contributions and he can keep € 180,00 per month for free and only the rest gets imputed to his unemployment benefit. But most of them are intelligent enough to choose clandestine employment.

That’s it. Now I keep my mouth shut.

Joy be upon us all said...

Wow, the desert is so quiet today, that I can hear the fucking desert mice even in Cologne.
Joy

Amused&Appalled said...

Those who write these articles are jealous of UAE's incredible progress over the last 30 years

hahahahha my goodness that was funny. UAE has a long, long way to go before it attains real results. Tall glass fronted buildings and lots of cars does not constitute progress. The UAE is just a place for business, just a good location. Noone is, as you so childishy put it, jealous.

The whole point that you are very sadly missing is the fact that labourers are getting a raw deal when it comes to their basic rights, and the rest of the world knows about it. More and more, instead of hearing "Dubai! I hear it's an interesting place.", I hear "Dubai? It's awful what the labourers have to deal with." Noone is jealous. Everyone is appalled.

Anonymous said...

Joy,

It’d be totally absurd to compare this system with European or American systems where taxpayer’s money is put to good use.

I’m sure you’re aware that here exists a totalitarian system where one voice counts. And that voice is not directed towards blue, white or any collared workers. For that matters, it’s not even directed towards their own citizens except a select few and the penultimate that run the show here. Unfortunately, even they (being the so-called penultimate; on paper) cannot tie their own show laces without permission.

A country does not run on towers, wonder parks, 6 or 7 star hotels, islands in the sea and shopping malls.

What drives a country forward is trade and ethics; respect for your fellow human being (irrespective of their origin), which this part of the world lacks and will never understand because of their arrogance and ignorance.

The UAE, instead of appreciating a guest worker’s contribution to the growth of their country & prosperity, literally pisses upon them, which I would attribute to arrogance and ignorance. And this all stems from greed that starts from the top and works its way down to the last T.

When I say totalitarian, it means ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’. That’s it! No more talk, no more discussion. There’s no recognition of human rights, which govern any country with a democratically elected house. Here it’s one voice, which citizens and expats have learned to live with. Handouts are more prominent with citizens enough to keep them stifled for a while.

But times they are a changing.

The winds of change are on course. This change may not happen tomorrow but it’s inevitable.

Just wait & see.

Joy be upon us all said...

There are two persons, that made my soooooooo happy today. Thanks.

Stained said...

This is stupid. The workers are still working, will work tomorrow & the day after. Nothing said here will make a difference.

They choose to come here to work, though the work may not be up to there standards but well life is not a walk in the garden. Maybe a few fortunate do get to take the walk through life but most have to just take it the hard way.

Now if soo many of you have issues with the plight of these workers, why dont you make the government impose taxes here. A suggestion that would be most welcomed by the government. Then we can talk about benefits & human rights in this country just like everywhere else. But I don't see anyone rushing off to the closest ministry to make such a suggestion.

Every countries progress always depends on the hard working-less paid workers. Thats how it has always worked. First through slavery, now through HR management. Just cause the media has such widespread networks, they love to highlight the plight of these workers in the Middle east making the rich business men here look like money crazy barbarians.

Its always the rich arab this & rich arab that. What about the thousands of poor arabs who are struggling everyday to just live.

I repeat, for the progress of a country some people will have to sweat it out & if need bleed for it. Thats the natural order. It takes years & sometimes decades for country to be where they are with numerous told & untold deaths/torture of various people.
This country has done so much in such a short time while many other countries have take soo long to.

I won't use the word 'jealous' in regard to the west but would just use the word 'proud' when it comes to us people in the middle east.

Anonymous said...

Apology to all Muslim who may read this... As to answer this

Anonymous said...
so there you are Nick!! and thanks to be at my service dear

you are right, you don´t need to be a Muslim to talk about Islam, but you must respect our religion to talk freely, and it is about respect, not about freedom speech.
You have a great confusion so you should learn more. Don´t confuse our submission only and just to Allah , and that does not mean to be brainwashed... you must understand, respect and above all learn....it is the most important to live with Muslim people...

He said you must understand, respect and above all learn... it is the most important to live with Muslim people...

My answer is Yes! for this But the question is how many Muslim now doing this... maybe you Yes! but how about the others...

Then if you know respect look what they are trying to do with all this people, you say respect right then they must respect them also not to exploit...

I think that number one rule in every religion here in the world...

I am not against to anyone but I'm not agree that all Muslim follow the true meaning of Islam... Because I observed a lot here that the violator of Islam rule are all Muslim...

Here's an example... (Its not invented since I was there when it was happen)

1. Eating at day time are highly prohibited during Ramadan...
One guy come in the middle of the day in one of Shops of Petrol station wearing traditional Arab dress then buy some foods and eat it in front of the staff and some shoppers of the said shop "what are you looking at I'm not in Saudi Arabia"...

Justify you reason here Please...


Regards

Stained said...

interesting...

Just because he is wearing a traditional Arab dress does not mean he's muslim.

Thats the problem nowdays.....one person eats [during the Holy month of Ramadhan], lets all assume he does not follow the Islamic guidelines properly. Have you every thought about lets say bad parenting being the reason for such behaviour. Maybe he was never taught Islam in the right way.

But all these are assumptions that maybe right.

Yes, some muslims do follow a distorted form of Islam. But no one knows how many are still following the Holy Quran. There are no statistics nor any surveys done to study. So we cannot say.

Every religion has been distorted to make it more flexible by several people, but several people more have remained true to the original teachings. So this does not apply to Islam only.

To live with a muslim is just a last stage in learning about Islam. You want to know what Islam is all about. Read the Holy Quran with appropriate translation in the laguage you understand best.

Anonymous said...

" My answer is Yes! for this But the question is how many Muslim now doing this... maybe you Yes! but how about the others... "

you are right, I am trying to follow my religion because I am fear the Hereafter not what happpens now ... and it is a sin to judge what make the others, because the time that I spend judging the others it is time that I should spend looking at myself.
so the others... the others dear will have their own time being judge... so.. the point is don´t judge our great religion Islam just because few, or if one fast or the other not.... like I said... our sumission is just to God, following The Qur an , the Sunnah and the Sirah.... you shouldn´t judge Islam just because a few....and this is the reason that you must learn

B.D. said...

I can't believe all the stupid if they don't like it, leave ilk of comments.

I'd just like to stick my head up above the din and say that this is a nicely written NYT article. If compared to articles written, say a year ago, it fairly highlights the improvements in UAE policy and treatmentt of laborers, while still pointing out the issues that remain to be solved.

The irony in the photo caption is also quite interesting. While these workers toil under such harsh conditions, so many in their own country, and even their own families, fail to appreciate their hardships and instead begrudge them for being the lucky ones.

The UAE construction miracle would not be possible without the sacrafice of these workers, to whom the country (the UAE) should feel indebted. Whatever the workers' motives--mostly self-interest, of course--the fact is that their toil and sweat is building this country. We all owe them a sense of grattitude--locals and the more privaledged expats alike.

Joy be upon us all said...

Hallo,

just a drawing instead of many words.

http://euroarabissuesproject22.blogspot.com/

With kind regards to Stained.

Joy

ninjacamel said...

It's getting harder for me to follow this thread while trying to sort out the different(?) people commenting as "anonymous"?
So please "anonymouses", could you just pick another random name and make other people's lives a bit easier?

i*maginate said...

Hello i,bobo! How are you? You're a Muslim-lover, one can tell by your blog (all credit to me for directing traffic to your schlpog)

Now, this post is interesting, and for once I have something to say. With such posts, I have decided to just look at the post before commenting, rather than reading the spew and non-spew that make up the comments that proceed the post.

Once and for all, I don't see nick as the "prick" that some of you see him to be. He's an interesting character, choosing to live in the UAE and spewing all kinds of nonsense at the same time. Still, there's something in his comments that makes me believe there are some things he likes about the UAE: his deep-vested interest in the local culture, for one ;)

And stained, his opinions are some I've come to respect of late.

Now now now. Your post is nothing new: may I have my 3.5 cents on this. Let it be known that I pity anyone less fortunate than I; who has to work away under the blazing sun, who earns less than I do; who will probably never earn as much as I do: full respect for that. Have you, or any other of the posters really done anything to "help" these unfortunate souls apart from blabbering away on some blog? Do you really think "talking" on here will alleviate the problems you publicise on here will do any good? What have YOU done to contribute to their welfare? Methinks ZILCH.

How about you get onto those streets and feed those guys, set up some kind of charity fund or something, or contribute to their welfare.

Words count for nothing without action.

Anonymous said...

@ i*maginate 02:56

Words count for nothing without action.

A direct challenge to your conscience, if you have one.

Helping Hands

See you there or in Hell!

Proud Muslim said...

I repeat, for the progress of a country some people will have to sweat it out & if need bleed for it. Thats the natural order. It takes years & sometimes decades for country to be where they are with numerous told & untold deaths/torture of various people.
This country has done so much in such a short time while many other countries have take soo long to.


There were many "crimes" which were considered part of the "natural order" of life as you put it. But as time passes, more and more such acts have been criminalized. 1000 Years back, it would have been the "natural order" in many countries for a man to kill a weaker man and take his wealth, or for a richer man to rape a poorer woman. But in 2007, these things are criminal acts in most places. Similarly it may have been ok to lash workers who are lazy, but now its NOT ok, and thats why you dont see it in the UAE. So the "natural order" argument is BS.

Anonymous said...

Helping Hands

That's better.

Stained said...

Interesting link there Anon@08:39

Did not know such an organisation existed.

Me & my family have always helped through a friend who deals with several labourers. Maybe I should put forward the idea to use this organisation in the future.

Thanks....
cheers... :D

Stained said...

@ proud muslim...

About the natural order statement. I meant about progress in terms of development of a country which is based on such workers to make a city/country look like when it would be called developed. I also mentioned that it has changed from slavery to HR management in todays world. So I was talking in this context.

Lirun said...

so what happens once the boom crosses a generation.. do these people live forever away from their families or do they raise families locally? do they ever become a part of local society.. are they forever low grade xpats?

nick said...

Exploitation?

There is no doubt that some labourers’ rights as agreed in their employment contracts are being abused and denied.

As a professional in a business that employs thousands of labourers I felt in the past compelled to contribute to any debate / blog that raised that issue.

It has been construed that I or my fellow construction professionals condone or aggravate abuse of labourers’ rights. That’s nonsense.

What I have argued in the past is that this abuse is isolated and does not amount to systemic exploitation.

What constitutes exploitation? Although ‘exploitation’ and ‘abuse’ are often being used synonymously, there is a difference. 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’ and denial of basic rights.

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 should be internationally applicable, but are not. Employers’ rights are not internationally consistent. Work contracts are NOT internationally consistent. There are no international standards for labourer accommodation. Health & Safety standards are NOT international.


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


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. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

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 by legislation and enforcement

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.

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. Change is on the hands, new laws are being drafted and with the compounded force of international opinion WRT. Business ethics things will change.

But for now, it is ridiculous to demand adherence to international standards from developing countries.

Let it be said to all you do-gooders out there in Dubai:

The construction industry drives this country forward, and has been doing so since the 1980’s.

There’s only that much money to go round in a market. Without cheap labour no high tax free salaries for you, for us all.

Without cheap labour no construction, no leisure industry, no shopping malls, no longshore men, no trading, no 4x4s, no nothing.

As it was said before, this country is built on the sweat of labourers.
Guess what- we ALL make them sweat, not just the Diwan.

Joy be upon us all said...

Hallo Nick

do you have a website ? I would be pleased to get a short brief.

Bye Bye

Joy be upon us all said...

Hallo i*maginate

you have understood nothing, rights are given you by the divine and robbed by force and just & fair wages are earned and all this has nothing to do with charity.

Look at
http://euroarabissuesproject22.blogspot.com/
I've added some comments.

I'm angry with you in this specific issue

Anonymous said...

That’s total bullshit, Nick (that’s in reference to your audited response)!

Guess what- we ALL make them sweat, not just the Diwan.

Speak for yourself hotshot, just don't use the term 'we'.

i, Bobo said...

"Hello i,bobo! How are you? You're a Muslim-lover, one can tell by your blog (all credit to me for directing traffic to your schlpog)

The implication being I hate Muslims?

I don't hate Muslims. I don't hate Christians either. Or Jews, or Hindus, or Buddhists...

What I do dislike are people who insist I should speak a certain way, think a certain way, eat a certain way, fuck a certain way...

You know what? You can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't impede my right to do the same.

So stop being a dick and assuming that just because I have on occasion pointed out that some Muslims, Christians, and Jews are assholes that I assume all are.

localexpat said...

what is wrong with the blogging community this month. This is the third discussion that has completely diverted away from the content of the blog entry and towards a religion bashing contest.

Maybe its the heat affect everyone's cognitive abilities......

nick said...

I know.
I wish Al-rep would go away on vacation.

Dubai money lover said...

It is just insane to think about morality related issues and human rights.

A large part of UAE's economic growth depends upon such practices. Not just labors are misbehaved, of course. Look at small businesses, too. The government is beating the hell out of them. They just can't run and go bankrupt. Everyone knows this is not the way it ought to be but these things "has nothing to do with business!"

Living for decades overhere, we are still being told that "if you don't like it, tough."

Finally, please don't expect things to change. These things shouldn't be surprises to inhabitants of a city where money and capital rules. In dubai, money rules- Moneyyyy ... Period.

UAEyah said...

are they immigrants?
I don't think so.....
immigrants are people who leave their countries for good!

Anonymous said...

are they immigrants?
I don't think so.....
immigrants are people who leave their countries for good!


UAEyah, is it true that 99.9% of Emiratis are immigrants from Iran, Oman, Yemen, Baluchistan & Zanzibar?

So, who's actually an Emirati here, I mean 100%?

Anonymous said...

http://www.gulfnews.com/nation/Society/10145909.html

Anonymous said...

I am not cruel or heartless, but in America people love such subjects and Washington Post and NYK are often so dramatic ...."human rights in glitzy Dubai!".
I keep wondering: don't they have their own issues in the US?

lola_anonymous said...

most of the labour force come to earn better money obviously. they just didn't know that the work would be under very tough conditions. most don't go back soon because they want to earn some money and when they reutnr, live comfortably, open small businesses.. The number of men who've returned home (to India)after working in the Gulf countries have very comfortable lives. So they don't really linger on in Gulf countries but return home. Also, migrant workers from India are skilled. Now that the Indian economy is booming, many prefer to return home or aren't taking up jobs in the Gulf anymore because the increase in rupee value is making it harder for them to save money. It was easier to save money and be a rich gulf-returned person in india before this boom in Indian economy.
If India becomes richer in the coming years, there will be lesser workers who will migrate to UAE. Its not a simple question of "if they don't like it, why don't they leave".

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