Guards take ac­tion over un­paid wages

Po­lice called as em­ploy­ees claim they have not re­ceived salary for months

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Nawal Al Ramahi @nawal_ramahi

Em­ploy­ees of a Dubai se­cu­rity com­pany re­fused to work yes­ter­day, claim­ing they had not been paid in months.

An es­ti­mated 400 guards, who work at ho­tels, of­fices and hospi­tals, chanted and held ban­ners that read: “Give us free­dom, we need Dubai Gov­ern­ment to in­ter­fere, we need hu­man rights.”

Po­lice of­fi­cers and labour of­fi­cials ar­rived dur­ing the in­ci­dent at the work­ers’s ac­com­mo­da­tion in Al Quoz to ne­go­ti­ate.

The men’s firm said there have been smaller protests in re­cent months but this was the largest to date.

One se­cu­rity guard, Has­san, aged 27, said he and his co-work­ers, who earn be­tween Dhs1,750 and Dhs2,000 per month, have not been paid this year.

“We have been suf­fer­ing for al­most five months,” he said. “None of us have money to buy food and we are liv­ing in such ter­ri­ble cir­cum­stances. Five to eight peo­ple live in each room and there is no air con­di­tion­ing.”

The op­er­a­tional man­ager at the firm said it had been un­able to pay wages as some clients had not paid bills. How­ever, he promised the men would be paid last night.

In this two-storey block in Al Quoz In­dus­trial Area, al­most 400 se­cu­rity guards live to­gether in con­di­tions they claim are un­bear­able.

Bed­rooms con­tain up to eight sleep­ing spa­ces in the form of bunk beds and some rooms have no win­dows. The men share 10 bath­rooms and claim some of the toi­lets are blocked or bro­ken. The heat in­side is sti­fling and hit about 38C when we vis­ited yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

Most of the guards are from In­dia, Pak­istan, Bangladesh and Egypt.

They say they are paid Dhs1,750 for work­ing 26 days per month, but many opt to work on their days off for an ex­tra Dhs250 per month, tak­ing their earn­ings to Dhs2,000.

Many said they take show­ers in an open space us­ing a hose that is at­tached to a faucet out­side.

Some work­ers said that sep­tic tanks in the camp have over­flowed in the past, lead­ing to filthy con­di­tions in the dorms.

Their com­pany, which ad­mits the wage de­lay, in­sists any poor con­di­tions are the fault of their em­ploy­ees, claim­ing some of the work­ers have van­dalised the ac­com­mo­da­tion. But Wahid, from Bangladesh, a se­cu­rity su­per­vi­sor, said: “Air con­di­tion­ers, bath­rooms, and our kitchen were never re­paired, de­spite re­peated re­quests to man­age­ment over many years. We can­not bear th­ese con­di­tions any­more.”

Food is pre­pared in a com­mon kitchen and the men buy and cook their own, un­like in other labour ac­com­mo­da­tion. “All the se­cu­rity guards liv­ing here agreed to th­ese con­di­tions in order to send money back home to their fam­i­lies,” Wahid said, adding many have lit­tle choice, given even lower wages in their home coun­tries.

PROTEST: Se­cu­rity guards hang around their block yes­ter­day af­ter refusing to work

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