Wednesday, March 19, 2008

UAE workers riot

As reported in the Wall Street Journal:
SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates -- Protests and violent skirmishes over rising prices are hitting parts of the Middle East, a region already beset by strife but otherwise enjoying an unprecedented, oil-fueled economic boom.

On Tuesday, hundreds of workers demanding higher wages to counter soaring food costs rioted at an industrial park tucked amid this Persian Gulf emirate's desert scrub. They burned and battered dozens of cars and buses at an American-owned contracting company, then ransacked and set ablaze parts of the company's offices.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have all been socked with soaring inflation. Because they peg their currencies to the U.S. dollar, those currencies have followed its sharp fall.
The region is heavily dependent on expatriate labor, many from Southeast Asia, who send much of their earnings home. As the value of their remittances falls with the dollar, they are growing frustrated.

That anger is now increasingly turning into violence. On Tuesday, hundreds of workers for Drake & Scull, an electrical and mechanical engineering contractor owned by U.S.-based Emcor Group Inc., rioted. The government put the number of workers involved at 1,500, while a Drake spokeswoman in Dubai said the number was much lower.
Some other reporting:

- Sharjah workers' riot brought under control - Sify News, India:
The situation in the Al Sajaa district of Sharjah, where around 1,500 workers of a sewage and maintenance company went on the rampage demanding salary hikes, has been brought under control.

The workers burnt office documents, broke glass facades of the first floor of the labour accommodation building and burnt and damaged vehicles of the company on Tuesday, according to the WAM news agency.

Director General of Sharjah Police Brig. Humaid Mohammed Al Hudaidi, accompanied by the Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour, Humaid bin Dimas, labour officials and directors of police departments and civil defence teams rushed to the riot scene.

The anti-riot team surrounded the labour accommodation while the civil defence team put out the fires that had engulfed offices and vehicles.
[Al Hudaidi] called on the workers not to resort to violence and subversion, leading to destabilization in the United Arab Emirates.
- Police quell subversive acts by 1500 labourers in Sharjah -Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates:
Al Hudaidi noted that some even attempted to attack police and the labour officials at the riot site. He said that 15 days ago the workers had selected their representatives to submit their salary hike demands to the labour office. Based on those demands, the labour officials discussed the demands with the officials of the company, which is owned by a nearby emirate to Sharjah. It set up a labour accommodation site in Al Sajaa district.

“Even before the workers received reply, a group of workers incited them to go on rampage and burnt vehicles and properties of the company,” Al Hudaidi said....
- Emirati Police Break Labor Strike -The Associated Press: "Police said that at least 500 workers carried out "subversive acts" at a work camp in the emirate, or state, of Sharjah, according to the official state news agency, WAM."

- Violent uprising - 7DAYS, United Arab Emirates - Mar 18, 2008By Fareed Rahman A labour protest turned violent in Sharjah yesterday, with 3000 angry workers setting light to vehicles and a storeroom at their camp.

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Blogger rosh said...

This is crazy - why are these idiots burning vehicles and becoming violent? How could anything be achieved, by burning their offices, means of transport and documentation - what's wrong with these people??? I don't think they are treated as bad as the labour folks, instead, think they hope to force an issue via violence. And before, people get on my case for saying this - please understand, not ALL labour folks are innocent, clueless & helpless - am sure there exists wicked ones amongst them, who'd take an opportunity to ignite any given situation. In my opinion, such idiots must be held responsible and deported, whilst simultaneously resolving this crisis.

This is clearly getting out of hand - safety has always been UAE's primary asset.

4:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a general rule, no change is seen until something drastic happens. Issues would never have got resolved if those affected didn't do anything about it. If you drive people to the edge you tend to bring out the violent tendencies in some. And then the others join in.

10:43 AM  
Blogger rosh said...

"If you drive people to the edge you tend to bring out the violent tendencies in some."

Really? How come these people do not get violent in their home nations? Why come into the UAE and cause this?

I agree - there isn't sufficient laws in place to protect the less fortunate, hence greed mongers shall exploit these folks - however, violence in the UAE, shall NEVER be a solution to anything. Get your voice across to those that can help make a difference - don't burn the town down!

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every society goes through changes.

Let them eat cake~

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Democracy, human rights and freedom of expression do NOT exist in the Gulf. The only word that exists in the Gulf's vocabulary is EXPLOITATION.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote: "Really? How come these people do not get violent in their home nations? Why come into the UAE and cause this?"

First off I don't support any form of violence. And yes, any fifth grader knows that domestic and other forms of violence is rife in places where these workers come from so they do get violent there too. Any law prohibits using violence as a means to an end, so doesn't mean UAE is immune to violence, it's just because those who can make a difference have failed. So don't make it seem like violence is a pleasurable hobby for these poor labourers.

As for quote: "getting your voices across to those who can help make a difference": UAE is an exception to the rule. Those people in power are not naive they DO know what's going on. But why would they care to make a difference as long as the work keeps getting done and the money keeps filling their pockets?? They're busy with their champagne and caviar parties while their workers struggle to eat a decent dinner.

As another example, too often I've heard of cases where promotions or incentives are granted only if the resignation is put down, and not after repeated appeals. So "getting your voice heard" sounds nice but does not work in the UAE.

1:20 PM  
Blogger rosh said...

"So don't make it seem like violence is a pleasurable hobby for these poor labourers"

Not a pleasurable hobby - I get that.

However, in this context, what was the cause for violent riot? Unlike the labour folks in DXB, these workers were employed and paid dues. Inflation is hurting everyone in the UAE - you don't see people burning cars do you? Just 'cause they are labourers is not an excuse.

That said, I agree with issues faced by labourers in DXB - it is inhumane and tough - and UAE is taking steps to protect and serve better. In many instances, these people are exploited by their own country men, even before setting foot into the UAE - and their governments seem not to care much.

"Those people in power are not naive they DO know what's going on..........struggle to eat a decent dinner"

I shall not deny, there is corruption and exploitation - however, it's silly to claim, this is across the board.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote "you don't see people burning cars do you?" Fair enough, as mentioned i don't condone their actions.

Quote "I shall not deny, there is corruption and exploitation - however, it's silly to claim, this is across the board." I do not believe that violence was the labourers' first resort.

If the management cannot afford to increase salary to meet the Dirham depreciation gap, it should promptly inform the labourers so, to either take it or leave the company. But do not practice forced labour whereby they will get banned if they leave. This is what I call inhumane.

There are several UAE projects that are looking to pay more to hire labour from the subcontinent, so give them the right to look for better prospects as they too have mouths to feed.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Democracy, human rights and freedom of expression do NOT exist anywhere in the world.

12:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like Rosh is an avid UAE lover.
No matter where you go in the world the rich will take advantage of the poor. These workers live on $190.00 USD a month. They live to send money back to their families so they may have better lives, they have to live on the rest. Food and shelter costs money, it’s not as cheap as you think to live in Dubai. You say “violence in the UAE, shall NEVER be a solution to anything" well it looks to the world that talking about it, they are waiting for something to happen which never materializes either. Democracy is an illusion, for millennia, the powerful and rich run everything and it will stay that way.

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

having worked in abu dhabi for the last two weeks i have just experienced mans inhumanity to man on a major scale.never before have i seen so much slavery and exploitation of african asian or pakistani people.if you want an idea of how the pyramids were built go to masdar UAE

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