Site workers forced into ‘trading trades’

Workers oppose having to be jacks of all trades and masters of none

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By  Conrad Egbert Published  May 28, 2005

Migrant tradesmen working in the UAE construction industry are being given jobs to work in trades where they have received no training. The claims emerged after Construction Week visited the Sonapur labour camp on the outskirts of Dubai. Site workers claimed that they were hired according to their professional qualifications, but were instead given basic labouring jobs or work in unrelated construction trades when they started the job. “I was hired as an electrician, and yet I’m being made to do civil work like laying bricks and cementing walls,” said one Indian construction labourer working for a Dubai-based contracting company. Several workers also claimed that labour agencies routinely place people in construction trades, even though they may be unskilled or have served their time in other, unrelated trades. Another worker from the same company, said: “Comp-anies hire us according to our qualifications and then they change our trade by making us do other work. “One of my co-workers is a plumber by profession, but he has has been forced to alternate between doing electrical work and civil work.” But some reputable contractors also claim that many migrant construction workers lie about their skills to win desperately needed jobs. “Almost all companies hire workers through recruitment agents who verify their documents and fulfill the legal formalities before sending them to us,” said Vijay Raghwan, a spokesperson for UAE-based Rigid Construction Company. He added: “Sometimes these workers lie about their qualifications, or hand in fake documents to get the job. “We have no control over this sort of thing. We only find out they’re not qualified when they join us and we see them work.”

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