Workers nap, office staff snap

DUBAI — A partial implementation of the ministerial order regarding a four-hour break for employees during the afternoon, by at least one company in Al Quoz, is causing problems to offices in a commercial building, which has become the unwilling host to some 200 workers.

By Zaigham Ali Mirza

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Published: Thu 14 Jul 2005, 10:36 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:42 PM

Workers of this company, work at which is carried out in the open under the sun, are allowed a one-hour break, from 1pm to 2pm, in direct contravention of the ministerial order. The same company has not provided a shaded resting area for its workers, as a result of which its 200 labourers are compelled to rest themselves in the foyer of the commercial building.

“The workers come here every afternoon for one hour, and while we do not begrudge them their rest, it is causing the businesses in this building a major inconvenience,” said Joann, who works in an office located in the building.

She told Khaleej Times that her five female colleagues find the presence of so many workers intimidating, and is a major inconvenience for visitors and customers the many offices receive during that hour.

Khaleej Times brought the matter to the attention of civic officials, who said that the companies are required by regulations to provide shaded resting areas within the premises or should transport the workers back to their camps.

The issue of workers resting elsewhere is in the grey area in terms of jurisdiction of departments within the municipality. While the Buildings and Housing Department inspects work sites for compliance of various requirements, the Environment Department's Environment Protection and Safety Section (EPSS), is involved on grounds of occupational and public safety.

Reda Salman, Head of the EPSS, revealed that the section has recently issued notices to major contracting companies to take corrective measures on several issues. “Large number of workers were spread all over the place in the vicinity of the work site, either waiting for their transport or resting. The boards barricaded around the site had big gaps, date palms at the site were dried up becoming an eye-sore, and most importantly private space was also being encroached upon, in ignorance, by these workers,” he said.

According to Salman, the notices specifically highlighted and called for the strict enforcement of regulations pertaining to hygiene, pollution, flotsam, littering, bad condition of hoardings around sites (by law there should be no gaps in the boards except for the gate which should have a barrier), and designated points for boarding and alighting from transport.

“The regulations also require that the company provides a suitable designated area for rest, abatement and control measures for noise and air pollution, and that trees planted at the site be attended to,” he explained.

The workers resting at the commercial building in question told Khaleej Times they work from 8am to 8pm with a one-hour break from 1pm to 2pm. “We work in the open, under the sun... sometimes a worker faints, mostly we suffer from head aches due to the glare,” said one worker. Most of the workers resting here wear cotton gauze dipped in water, supplied to them by their employer.

“There is no shade at the site, and this place is the closes shaded area,” said another worker, adding that the lucky ones get to rest inside the building's entrance as it is air-conditioned. Many workers claimed there is no concept of a weekly off, and the only time they took a day off was when they fell very ill. Also, they complained of delayed payment of their wages, which they said range from Dh600 to 900, and reach Dh1,500 with overtime.

The general manager of another company, few workers of which also rest in the building told Khaleej Times that they would be asked to desist from resting there.

He explained that there is ample shaded area with fans within the premises for workers to rest, but some may have decided to rest outside out of their own volition. “And the one-hour break is justified in our case because our workers do not work in the open. They are paid overtime for extra hours they put in,” he explained.

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