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Dubai firms find AC buses 'too expensive' for workers
Ministry of Human Resources vows stringent action against employers who do not provide A/C buses
Despite having laws that make it mandatory for employers to provide high standard buses for workers, many construction companies fail to offer air-conditioned rides for them.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation stresses that Cabinet Decree No. (13) 2009 concerning the adoption of common standards for collective housing and related services also addresses transportation standards and vehicle safety for workers. Clause No. (9) made it mandatory for employers to provide air-conditioned vehicle.
However, a number of site and service managers told Khaleej Times that air-conditioned buses are more expensive to lease, and companies often go with the cheaper option.
Ministry to take tough measures
Mohsin Al Nasee, Director of the Inspections Department at the ministry in Abu Dhabi, told Khaleej Times the ministry will take tough measures against employers who do not comply by the law and provide air-conditioned buses.
Violators may even be referred to the Administrative Violations Committee for failures to commit to health and safety requirements, until the reason of the violation is resolved.
Officials urged workers and residents to report violations on the ministry's toll number 800665.
"The ministry will then call in violators and compel them to take appropriate action in providing air-conditioned buses," said Al Nasee.
He added that the ministry is currently in talks with the vehicle licensing authorities to ensure that all vehicles are air-conditioned before renewing their licenses annually.
He noted that the need for AC in buses is acute given the hot climate of the UAE.
A service manager, who supervises the buses for workers at an engineering enterprise in Dubai, said: "While some companies rent buses, others prefer purchasing one to endure long-term projects."
The manager, who requested not to be identified, said a bus costs over Dh350,000. According to him, adding AC might add about Dh70,000 of expenses.
Big buses come with no AC, while small buses are air-conditioned. Health reasons are another factor behind choosing non-air conditioned buses.
The manager said: "Having air-conditioned buses for workers is unrealistic. Being at sites all day, they are sweaty. Putting them in a closed bus can easily spread diseases."
"Open buses will help remove bad odour and cool them down."
Project manager at another engineering enterprise said the firm he currently works in is among many that do not provide air-conditioned commutes.
"Non-AC buses are cheaper. Also, workers go to work early and usually leave by the end of the day. From employers' point of view, the weather is overall bearable during these times of the day and does not subject workers to irritation from the heat," said the manager, who requested not to be named.
Echoing similar thoughts was another project manager who said her employers do not provide air-conditioned rides to workers.
"When I raised the issue, they said cost is the main factor behind their choice."
But a corporate planning manager said the issue is sometimes unintentional, highlighting the fact that buses operate for long hours, which could lead to AC failure.
"We can call it bad maintenance or negligence, but we are talking about buses that sometimes carry over its capacity of up to 7,000 workers a day. The number of commuters interferes with its functionality."
What workers have to say
Basheerudin, worker at a Dubai company, told Khaleej Times that groups of workers travel in buses without AC back to their accommodation in Sharjah.
"Summer time is the worst time of the year for us. Without air conditioning we suffer too much, and many times we complain to our supervisors, but no one listens."
"We take bottles of cold water with us to not feel the heat. But it's really hot and the Dubai-Sharjah traffic makes it worse."
Mohammed Saboor, a carpenter, has been in Dubai for around seven years with many construction companies.
"Our work starts at 7am, but we commute at 5am to avoid the traffic. Evenings are very difficult especially during summer time."
He said that majority of buses are lack AC, with only fans available for ventilation.
"These fans are not enough and sometimes they do not work."
He added: "We complained to supervisors, but they cannot do anything if the company refuses. Sometimes they fix the AC, but other times they do not."
Laetoon Paji, who has been working in Dubai and Sharjah since 2009 said minibuses are air-conditioned. But for long distances, AC systems fail to work properly.
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