Sunday, June 07, 2009

Worker Bees

Should the outside laborers and workers get a mid-day break? Depends on who you ask. I say yes they should, but unfortunately I am in no position to argue for them - I would, if I could. I cannot. It is not an option. Period. My gardener comes first thing in the morning - what he does the rest of the day? I am not his sponsor and it is up to him - the sponsor - to determine what Appuk does for whatever hours Appuk is required to work for him. [Ditto for Inam; but then, he works indoors.] The National Society for Human Rights [NSHR] is again [they do every year] "urging authorities to ensure the safety of construction workers by preventing work during midday hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the summer." What about the rest of the outdoor workers? The street cleaners, the gardeners, the groundkeepers? As we were headed over to Bahrain yesterday I pointed out to DH how miserable a man - a street cleaner - had to be. It was hot out [107°] and humid - right there next to the water, and he was working on the pavement with absolutely no protection from the sun - dressed in an orange jumpsuit with black shoes on. I cannot imagine... The President of the NSHR says a "halt of work during midday hours was required during the months of July and August when temperatures in the Kingdom reach sweltering highs." Supposedly if the temperature goes over 50° then workers are allowed to not work [50° celcius is 122° fahrenheit] but anyone who lives here knows that the none of the thermometers measure over 49° so no worries about workers not getting their nine hours in on a daily basis. And we all know that if the workers are not actually working then they are not getting paid, regardless of the fact that "Article 12 of the Labor Law insists that an employer should take precautionary measures to protect his workers... and should not cut his salary for providing this protection." An official from the Labor Office said "his office had not received any complaints from employees for working during midday hours on the instruction of their companies." Gee. Wonder why that is? Perhaps because workers, here, know they have no protections from their employers no matter what their employers do. 'Ya think!?

Just another unpaid, abused maid. She has vanished. The circumstances seem just a little suspect, if you ask me. The police are now searching for her [umm hmm]. Janu, a 35-year-old Indian maid came to The Sandbox on February 4th this year to work as a housemaid in Riyadh. She paid SR30,000 to a local placement agency to obtain the job. That is $8,042.49! Janu was supposed to receive a salary of SR500 per month [$134.04], and of course, received none of her wages. [Stop and think about the fact that at $134.04 a month it would take her sixty months - or FIVE YEARS - to earn back what she paid as a recruitment fee. I find that utterly amazing.] Supposedly she was the only maid to a family that included 18 members. It is not hard to imagine that the poor woman probably never had more than the bare minimum amount of time at night to grab some sleep and likely never had a day off. Despicable. And she did it all for free, since she has not received a single riyal or halala for her services. Janu escaped from her employer, fleeing in her nightgown, "to seek refuse at the Indian Embassy. Subsequently, the authorities took her to the shelter on May 15." One of the inmates at the shelter said "that Janu had complined... that she was severly tortured by her employer and his mother. She narrated how she was beaten by the sponsor with iron rods. She showed us the scars on her body." That same inmate said "she saw Janu's sponsor with the passport and ticket in his hands when he came to pick Janu from the center." The sponsor took the maid from the center and agreed to send her home. "Her relatives back home were informed of her arrivial at the Calicut airport and they waited for Janu for more than 48 hours." She never arrived. The sponsor's mobile phone has been disconnected [what a surprise!] and his whereabouts are unknown [sure they are]. Sad, actually. Janu was a widow and had two children she was trying to support. Just another disposable worker in The Sandbox.

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