300 workers left in lurch without salaries and food, get help

 

300 workers left in lurch without salaries and food, get help
Construction workers lined up for medical check up and food at a labor camp in Sonapur.

Dubai - Many of them want to go home, but have their visas expired, which the employer has refused to renew.

By Saman Haziq

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Published: Fri 28 Jun 2019, 6:33 PM

Last updated: Sat 29 Jun 2019, 6:50 PM

Over 300 blue collar workers of a private firm in Dubai are struggling to make ends meet as they have not received their salaries for several months now. It was when they began facing shortage of food and health issues due to stress, Dar Al Ber Society (Dabs) stepped in to help.
The charity has also informed the consulates of  India, Bangladesh and Pakistan - as all the workers belong to one of the three countries - that have swung into action, bringing some hope to the workers.

The workers are facing extreme shortage of food and health issues due to stress. Many of them want to go home, but have their visas expired, which the employer has refused to renew.


Indian Consul-General Vipul told Khaleej Times that a team of officials from the consulate visited the company's office and the employer had promised them to resolve the issue soon. "The employer said he ran into business issues and that is why he was unable to pay the workers. However, he has promised that he will resolve the issue soon and has already dispatched one-month salary to some of the workers. He said he would be arranging the dues of all the workers soon and we will be following up with him. We have also referred the case to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation," said Vipul.

For the immediate relief of the workers, the Dar Al Ber Society (Dabs) distributed food items and conducted a medical camp at their accommodation on Wednesday.
Social worker, CSR and charity expert of Dabs, Juhi Yasmeen Khan along with some members of the charity visited the labour accommodation of the workers with over 300 food packs and other basic necessities that were distributed among the workers, who waited eagerly in a queue. The charity also brought with them a team of five doctors and nurses from Aster Hospitals group that volunteered to give the workers a free check-up.
Dabs executives ran a relief camp on Thursday where they distributed over 300 packs of cooked food (veg and non-veg packs of biryanis), laban (yogurt drink), milkshakes, desserts. They were also supplied grocery items such as lentils, rice, tomato paste, salt, chilli powder etc to cook if they want. Aprt from food items, Dabs also supplied the workers with a number of hygiene kits and toiletries such as tooth paste, shampoo, detergents.

Juhi Yasmeen Khan with Aster docs at the relief camp organized by Dar Al Ber Society at the labour accommodation in Sonapur.
Speaking to Khaleej Times about the relief work, CSR and charity expert of Dabs, Juhi Yasmeen Khan, who was distributing meal packs to the workers said:" We were informed about the deplorable condition of these workers by a an Indian expat Anuradha Vobbilisiti. Our team came and inspected the condition of these workers and decided to provide for them. For a couple of weeks we will provide them cooked meals and then we have also stocked some rice, oil, flour, spices and other goods so the workers can cook on their own also.
We got doctors with us - thanks to the prompt response from the Aster team - as many workers complained of high fever, stomach cramps and vertigo.
"Dabs team has also informed about the issue to the Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani consulate, who have sent their teams to look into the matter," Khan added.
Workers describe ordeal
According to workers, the crisis began a little over a year ago when they started experiencing delays in getting salaries. While some said they haven't received salaries for three months, some others said they have gone without salary for five or more months.

However, they are grateful that at least they have a shelter with air conditioners in their labour accommodation in Sonapur. All of them are sitting jobless with expired visas as the work on their sites have stopped due to lack of funds.

Describing his desperation, a Bangladeshi worker in his 30s said: "It has been so many months that we stopped working and hence we are penniless. Forget about sending money home, right now, we have no food to eat, our visas are expired and our passport is still with the employer, who has been making promises after promises that he would pay us soon. But nothing has worked out yet. We cannot work elsewhere as we don't have our documents, we have no source of income or even can't return home."
Another worker told Khaleej Times: " We have been in a miserable condition as we have no money to buy food. We are living on the mercy of passersby or nearby cafeterias, who have pity on us and sometimes give us food. But that won't last long as they won't provide us food everyday free of cost and it is too embarrassing to beg for food. We came here to work respectably, earn and take care of ourselves and our families. Not to beg or become illegal residents, which is what we are now as the company has made no arrangement to renew our visas."
Indian worker Prem Sagar said he had been eating bread soaked in water. Holding his request for resignation that he had sent to the company a year ago, Prem, who has worked with the company for over 10 years, said he has been pleading the company to accept his resignation for more than a year. Breaking down while speaking to KT, he said: "My wife is suffering from cancer and I want to return to my family. I haven't received my salary for over three months. My visa and Emirates ID are expired and I have no money to pay for my overstay fine. I just want to go back home as my only daughter, who is now 13, has dropped out of school to take care of my wife. My mother is also old and ailing, and I am the only breadwinner."
Most of the workers' salaries range in between 700-1,500. Pakistani driver Mohammad Noor Khan, who has been with the company for a decade, said: "For the last six months, some of us have been going to our company office every day to check when we will get our salaries. But they just drive us out, saying that they would give when they have funds. If we want to quit, we are asked to simply wait for months. When we go to the airport, the company gives us whatever salary it wishes and from that too it cuts the cost of the ticket and overstay fines. Basically, we have the option to go home empty-handed, with a promise that when the company gets funds it will send us our dues."
When Khaleej Times contacted the employer, he  promised to clear the dues of the workers at the earliest and said he had already dispatched one batch of salaries and will try and payout the rest of the workers in the coming month.
saman@khaleejtimes.com



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