Construction Week Newsletter 9th October 2005

When we received a telephone call this week about the plight of South Indian construction workers being forced to live in a villa in the Dubai suburb of Satwa, it didn’t immediately strike us as the worst social injustice we had ever come across.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  October 9, 2005

Enough is enough: Pay them on time|~||~||~|When we received a telephone call this week about the plight of South Indian construction workers being forced to live in a villa in the Dubai suburb of Satwa, it didn’t immediately strike us as the worst social injustice we had ever come across. But then it was a three-bedroom villa and there were 87 construction workers living in it. The men were from Chennai and they hadn’t been paid for six months. Last week they marched on the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to have their case heard, and they are refusing to go back to work until they get paid. In Europe, construction workers will walk out on strike for all sorts of reasons that may seem valid or invalid, depending on your perspective. The steelworkers on Heathrow’s Terminal Five project are currently threatening to walk out because they want an extra pound an hour travelling bonus. Most of these guys will be clearing upwards of US $1500 (£855) per week. So let’s compare and contrast. In Dubai we have the 87 lads from Chennai, who if they were paid, would receive around $40 per week. And over in London we have the hard-done-by steelworkers paid a mere $6000 per month, who are intent on taking to the streets with Lech Walesa-like conviction over their tube fares. When we see construction workers demonstrating on Sheikh Zayed Road we are not looking at a bunch of loonie lefties who will shout “Right, everybody out lads!” at the drop of a hard hat. They are not protesting because they have noticed a trip hazard on a scaffold or because they don’t have the requisite number of portacabins on site. They are probably protesting because they live in squalid accommodation, have not been paid and are in despair. The largest sums of money some of these workers will have ever handled will have been the cash they paid to the labour agents who brought them here in the first place. How do you get by without being paid for six months? How do you support your family? The answer is that you don’t. At some point you say enough is enough, you cut your losses and you go back home — which is what the workers from Chennai will probably end up doing. Sean Cronin Editor||**||

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