WORK­ERS TOIL IN THE HEAT

Work­ing out­side a chal­lenge for many

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Ma­hak Man­nan @Ma­hakLFC ma­hak@7days.ae

If Ra­madan is in­tended to be a strug­gle for every Mus­lim, a test of their faith, then it’s the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge for construction work­ers toil­ing in the mid­day heat.

With tem­per­a­tures due to hit 44C in UAE cities this week, 7DAYS spoke to labour­ers de­ter­mined to main­tain their fast. That in­cludes not hav­ing a sip of wa­ter from dawn un­til dusk.

The mid­day break rule that pre­vents labour­ers from work­ing un­der di­rect sun­light from 12.30pm-3pm comes into ef­fect from Wed­nes­day, and is meant to bring some respite, but for many it still means hours spent out­side.

What is more com­mend­able is that many of the men who are build­ing this coun­try are stick­ing to their fast vol­un­tar­ily.

Labour­ers are ex­empt from fast­ing if they feel they are work­ing be­yond their phys­i­cal abil­ity in the sum­mer heat, ac­cord­ing to the Gen­eral Author­ity of Is­lamic Af­fairs and En­dow­ment.

A fatwa is­sued by the author­ity in 2010 stated that labour­ers may end their fast for the day and com­pen­sate for missed days at a later stage.

But those 7DAYS spoke to felt it is their duty to fast dur­ing the Holy Month.

Bangladeshi worker AK, 22, who works in Abu Dhabi, said it is go­ing with­out wa­ter that tests them the most.

He said: “Although our con­trac­tors have told us to avoid heavy work, like shov­el­ling and lift­ing through­out the sum­mer, we still have to do it.

“In a job like ours, we can­not make ex­cuses, and we end up feel­ing very thirsty. “We start our shift at 5am and work un­til 4.30pm. From the mo­ment we step out of our rooms, the heat is ter­ri­ble.

“The rest of our day is spent in the sun.”

Another Bangladeshi labourer, AH, 24, said: “We try to eat and drink as much as we can late in the night be­cause that is the only time we get.

“Even when we reach back to our rooms, there is no time for rest. We get two uni­forms every six months and with the heat we sweat so much that we have to wash our uni­forms every day.

“We cook and have a heavy din­ner, usu­ally rice and fish, and gulp down lots of wa­ter once we get up. We get about five hours of proper sleep every night.”

With con­stant ex­po­sure to heat, many labour­ers, like 29-year-old Pak­istani worker SH have re­cur­ring health is­sues too.

He said: “When­ever I face light for a long time, I get a pierc­ing pain in my head, which the doc­tor said was mi­graine.

“Dur­ing the sum­mer along with the heat, this has be­come a daily prob­lem. I can­not even take sick leave for it be­cause it is every day, painkillers don’t help ei­ther.”

For the crew on one Abu Dhabi work­site, if they fin­ish their shift later than ex­pected, or miss their bus, there is a three-hour wait in the heat for their next ride home.

In­dian worker KN, 35, said as he waited for the 5pm bus hav­ing fin­ished his shift at 2pm.

He added: “Some­times the bus is late or early and peo­ple miss it. This means I have to stand and wait in the heat for at least three more hours to get back to Musaf­fah, there is no other way to go back.”

Mak­ing Dhs900 per month, labour­ers are ready to work over­time for as lit­tle as Dhs3.5 per hour, ac­cord­ing to one Bangladeshi worker, AM, 38, who has been work­ing in the UAE for the past four years.

He said: “We make around Dhs10 for three hours ex­tra, which is close to 200 takas back home - that is a lot of money.”

‘Although our con­trac­tors told us to avoid heavy work, we still have to do it. we can­not make ex­cuses.’ – Bangladeshi worker AK

TIR­ING TIME: For work­ers on construction sites across the UAE

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