Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Plight of So Many Unpaid Workers...

The Plight of So Many Unpaid Workers...: "Happens all the time. This is nothing new. Workers, imported from other countries, come here with hopes and dreams of being able to make enough money to support their families in whatever country they are from. Very often they come only after paying hefty fees to a middle-man [who pockets most of that money] who gets them the requisite documentation allowing them to be here, and promises the workers that they will be given contracts which will pay them X-dollars and provide them meager benefits [housing]. In the end, they get nothing. Empty promises. Worthless contracts. And no pay. Well that's not wholly true - most will have received housing in a labor 'camp' for as long as they were willing to work...

That spectacular new university, known as KAUST [King Abdullah University of Science and Technology] which opened just a short time ago, was built using the sweat and labor of imported workers. And now, 250 of them are demanding to be paid for the last four months that they have worked - which included overtime - in order to have the university ready to be opened on time. According to the article, 'in four months, the workers received only 600SR [$160.85] each in emergency cash before the Eid holiday.' Yeah. Four months of work - and who knows how many hours those four months were comprised of - for $40.21 per month!!! Ten dollars a week. Since the typical work week for imported laborers, here, is a 48-hour week, without overtime, that means these workers were paid approximately TWENTY CENTS an hour for their efforts blood, sweat and tears - not including the promised 'overtime' pay.

The workers are now demanding 'immediate payment of their late wages, termination of their contracts with end-of-service benefits, and one-way ticket[s] back home.' Yeah. Good luck with those demands. Chances are real good that you're never going to see a dime of the wages you are owed, you certainly are not going to get your end-of-service benefits, and you'll be lucky if you get that one-way ticket back home. Instead, like so many other imported workers who come here, you'll be let go to fend for yourselves, and eventually be rounded up and thrown in jail until your families can come up with the money to pay for your release and buy your ticket back home.

Here is what really happens... The end 'scenario' of these workers that come to toil and labor for eight, ten and twelve hours a day, six days a week, in the heat and hot sun for a mere pittance, regardless of promises made. 'Seventy-one Indian detainees were released from Shumaisy Deportion Center in one single day, Friday, considered to be a record number of any nationality sent back home.' Why, exactly, were they in a deportation center? Well, because the majority of them 'were reported by their respective sponsors as runaway workers.' [Clarification: Because their sponsors did NOT want to have to pay them for the work they had performed.]
That's why. Hasn't anyone given any consideration to the fact that not ALL workers are actually runaways? And, even if there were some runaway workers shouldn't the reason that they ran away in the first place be addressed? I think we all know the answer to that question. Because they were never paid for the work they did and they thought that if they could find someplace else to work then they might stand a chance of at least making a little money as opposed to no money!

The article says, 'around 10 to 15 arrived at the deportation center after their sponsors handed them over... for deportation on their own personal expenses (one-way ticket). To save [the] cost of [a] return air-ticket some unscrupulous sponsors dropped their workers at the deportation center with their exit visas endorsed on passports.' I'm not in charge here, and I don't make any of the rules, but I would think that the government here would be making at least some effort to put a system into place to make this practice stop. Never mind. After all, why would they if it meant forcing a sponsor to put money into an account which guarantees the return of the workers to their respective countries when that would mean less in kick-backs [or whatever practice is in place, here] for them? Them, being the government workers who issued the papers to allow sponsors to bring workers here in the first place.

One 'inmate' awaiting deportation, 'described the occasion as 'celebratory' and 'freedom day' for the deportees, who ecstatically lined up in a long queue to board a bus' that took them to the airport. He says, 'four of the 71 released returned back to the deportation center, and no reason was given why their deportation was put off. ...Pramod Kumar, a Keralite, returned back from the airport for the third consecutive time.' We will never know the disappointment and despair that Mr. Kumar has got to be experiencing.

As if not paying these men isn't enough punishment, salt is rubbed in the wounds as they are disregarded like a piece of trash at a deportation center and told that 'they would be deported in two days.' Instead, the process involves 'a minimum of two months before any detainee gets released from the deportation center.' Two days. Two months. Same same. Or it is in the eyes of authorities and sponsors, here, anyway, in the Sandbox. For shame. For shame.

The inmates, who, no doubt for the most part have done nothing wrong but work hard for no pay and a handful of empty promises, are housed in cells 'Nos. 8 and 9' at the Shumaisy Deportation Center where they are kept in huge groups - there are currently some 450 'inmates' in those two cells - and there would be even more if not for the
reporting of local newspapers which highlighted 'their plight and sufferings due to unhygienic conditions at the center' which was instrumental in bringing the matter to the attention of Indian authorities and getting some 71 of them released.

'A joint petition signed by the mainstream social and cultural organizations such as ICC, OICC, Kelee, KMCC and FOKASA was dispatched to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister, Vyalar Ravi, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Chief Minister of Kerala 'to expedite the deportation of Indian detainees.' The combined efforts by various social organizations, speedy issuance of emergency certificates from [the] Indian Embassy and... airline bookings helped the deportation of Indian detainees... ...the remaining detainees will be sent back home in the near future.' In the meantime, 'A number of inmates are at the center for more than three months and are suffering from several acute and chronic diseases like chicken pox, tuberculosis and asthma,' said R. Muraleedharan, President of the Federal of Keralite Associates in Saudi Arabia.

Sad. Pathetic. And, disgusting. The treatment of these men.
There has GOT to be a better way for them in life... There just has to.

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