This is just one story of a poor Labour Worker

June 16, 2009 at 9:58 am (Everyday life situations) ()

Aysha is a loving compassionate mother. Her kind smile and plump figure makes you feel that you just want to hug her. She decided during the month of January to put a big tent in her garden so that her family can enjoy the lovely short winter of Qatar. She called the Indian contractor whom her family usually deals with. Few days later, workers came with their tools to start constructing the tent. Before the tent was about to finish, Aysha decided to pass by and see how things are developing. However, as soon as she arrived to where the tent was being built she couldn’t help but notice something strange. The workers were gathering around something and as soon as they heard her, they all stood looking afraid. She asked “what is going on here?”. No one spoke. she asked again, but still there was no response. The only response she got was carelessness and hesitance from their eyes. She noticed that they were sitting on the ground looking down. Then she was horrified to see one of the workers with tears and blood pouring from his left eye. he was holding what looked like a dirty piece of cloth on his left eye trying to stop the flow of blood. Aysha was shocked at the scene and cound’nt understand why those men were ignoring such horrible accident from here. “Oh my god what is going on here? what happend to you” she shouted. The man didnt speak, he was in so much pain. She looked towards the standing men. it was obvious that she was very upset, which made them even more afraid. she asked one more time “you must tell me what happend? why are you trying to hide the enjyury of your friend”. It seemed that no one spoke english. She called her driver hoping that he would be able to translate. Luckily he spoke the same language as the men did. After further attempts to try to understand what was going on, the driver explained that the injured man was hammering a nail into the concrete when suddenly a sharp object hit his eye. Aysha spoke to his immediate contractor who was there standing carelessly and did not want to be involved. She blamed him for not giving his workers some safety equipments that could have prevented what happened. However she was surprised with his response “What happened to this man is not my responsibility, they do not work for me, I subcontracted this job to someone who subcontracted to the contractor in your house now, so you should speak to him and not me”. There was no point in arguing with or trying to get some information from the immediate contractor. Aysha did not want to waste any more time so she took the injured man to a private hospital where she knows most of the doctors. On the way, the driver was translating so that Aysha would know this man’s story. She managed to know that he used to work for a big company but could not handle the working and living conditions and so he ran away and decided to free lance. The driver translated “Madame, he says he is afraid of being deported because he needs this job to send money to his family, if fixing his eye would cause him trouble with the police, he prefers not to go”. Aysha shouted “non sense! His eye is worth more, I cannot ignore his injury and leave him, tell him not to worry” After x-ray and further examination it appeared to be a very serious matter and requires immediate medical attention. The doctor told Aysha “it appears to be a large metal object in his eye socket; and this requires a big operation. We think it is better if you take him to Hamad hospital for several reason. First, it is going to be very expensive, and there are some legal issues and you might have to deal with the police because it is a work incident and as we understand he ran away from his sponsor” So, Aysha took him to Hamad hospital. But the episode was far from ending and it was still morning! at the beginning, he was completely ignored. It took them about 30 minutes to get someone’s attention. Aysha couldn’t understand how they could ignore him, it was obviously a trauma; his blood was every where. Was it because he was a poor asian worker? When the nurse came, she said he has to wait. “why cant you write trauma on his paper? he obviously needs immediate attention” Aysha said sounding very upset. The nurse said “well, we have to register him and it seems that he has some ID issues”. After further deliberation, Aysha managed to get them by pass the ID issue and see a doctor. Only the fourth doctor who saw him said “hmmmm, why doesn’t it say trauma, well, we should right trauma here”. Things started to get better when an Indian doctor saw the poor man and felt sympathetic with him so he hurried up the process. During all this time, the injured man was sitting on a chair. Aysha asked one of the nurses “could you please find him a bed, he was working all day and he is obviously exhausted from his injury and standing all day”. It took few more hours to find a bed for the bleeding Asian man. When he was about to relax a young police man approached him. Before he even spoke, he seemed aggressive, and treated the injured man as if he was guilty until proven innocent. He shouted “WHAT IS YOUR NAME?”. The injured man didn’t answer because he simply was scared and doesn’t speak arabic or English. Aysha couldn’t tolerate such behavior. She said, in a kind yet, in a reprimanding way just like all mothers do “My son, do not shout at him, he is a poor man and he is in pain, he does not speak english or arabic, my driver will translate for you, please be kind with him”. The young police man was ashamed of himself and respected the presence of Aysha. After the interrogation was finished, things started getting better. The doctors said that they need to do the operation after 9 hours because they need his stomach to be empty for the anesthesia. Aysha asked her driver to stay with the man, she gave him a raise for doing that. She sent them some tea and food. During this time, Aysha could not help but notice the number of injured cheap labor workers at the hospital. Each with different injury and different story. Is this normal? The operation was successful, and the man was admitted to the hospital for few days. Even though it took a long time for him to be taken care of, Hamad hospital paid for the operation which cost 50,000 QR in private hospitals. While he was recovering, Aysha visited him to check on his health. When he was discharged, he visited Aysha and her family to say goodbye before he leaves.

The moral of the story is to show the serious consequences of subcontracting with cheap labor who fled from their original sponsor because of their bad working conditions with big companies. Those poor workers would do any job even if they did not have the skills required for it. and as we can see from the story, he did not know how to deal with the machinery which resulted in his injury. This leads to another issue, the right of having a safe working environment with safety equipments. Obviously both contractors were not concern with the well being of their workers. I don’t know if their are any laws regarding this issue. But if there is, there is no one making sure that they are enforced. Who is going to hold those big companies and selfish contractors accountable for whatever happens to their workers? Why not take care of them while medical service in Hamad hospital is free? It wont even cost them a thing. If those simple procedures were conducted and applied, Hamad hospital wont be roaming with so much injuries. Isn’t it enough that they slave all day under the burning sun for few hundreds that they receive at end of the month. (And in many cases their pay is delayed) Which one of us would accept to live in these conditions and get rewarded with only few hundreds? what is few hundreds for us? nothing. I despise those who say “it is nothing for us but a lot for them”. I also loath those who compare their work and living conditions here and in their home countries and believe that its much better to slave here than there. Does the fact that they are poor and unfortunate gives us the right to use them to maximize profit and minimize costs? The blame is not on the worker who ran away from his sponsor. He wouldn’t run away at the first place if he was not already suffering. We have to think of those people, they are just like us. The only difference between us and them is that they were born in unfortunate circumstances. It is not their fault that they were brought into such cruel world. but it is our fault if we make it harder for them. This is just one story, one aspect of cheap labor lost rights. There are maids who have been working in homes for three years and have never been out, one of them said “I have been here for years and don’t even know how city center looks like; I have never been out of the house, never had a break”.

3 Comments

  1. Homme du Qatar said,

    a very moving story, reflects a true but harsh reality of cheap labor in Qatar and the region in General. Concerning some of the questions presented, there are laws and other acts either passed through the Ministry of Work, and others had to be pushed by even Amnesty and The National Human Rights Organization. However, like you mentioned, in Qatar there are many laws that help workers, employees, student, but they were never enforced. On the contrary, they were ignored. We do not have a leader figure, a minister, a political leader, or an experienced lawyer who have some gutts to stand up for a lot of these issues. I really would like to see change, for now, all what we can do is take Aysha’s example and do our best, BUT that doesn’t mean we let the government get away with highly developed towers, and very under developed workin environment and under valued humans!

  2. Dany said,

    Assalamu \’Alaikum

    \”Wake up and smell the Crap\”, that\’s what I usually joke around with my friends. Its a \”dog eat dog world\” out there. If coffee is what you smell the minute you wake, than it means you haven\’t woken up yet.

    FYI this things actually happens all around the world, not just in Qatar. It happens when \”smart people\” meets poverty. Their smart but they don\’t actually have anything to restrained them, so they devised something what we now often know as \”Outsourcing\”. They are smart, so they will always find loop hole or a dent in the system that the government devised to control them. And I think no leaders in the world can stop them no matter how good they are. I think its up to the people it self to stop those \”smart people\”. Coz numbers really matter you know😀

    Wassalam

  3. intlxpatr said,

    Bless Aysha for persisting even when people wanted to problem to just go away, not just once or twice, but over and over again. It took real conviction on her part to follow through, not just with words, not just with good intentions, but making sure the worker was given the care he so desperately needed. That took real character.

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