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29 June, 2005

The silence of light

Looking into the heart of light, the silence, on a Gulf midsummer midday: few birds sing, the crickets are still. The intense heat beats everything into a limp, dank stupor. The hum of air-conditioning, the whir of a fan, the endless drone of traffic down Sheikh Zayed road: even these are blurred and muted under the glare of the sun.

White-collar workers walk swiftly from their cars into cool buildings, never lingering, never chatting. Blue-boilersuits on the roadside keep still in the shadow of a small tree, or in the thin strip of shade against a dusty wall. At this latitude at this time of year, the sun is directly overhead for many hours, and there is little cover to be found.

And now, thanks to the compassion of labour minister Dr Al Ka'abi, even the clank of scaffolding and churning cement trucks will be silent. After a long battle with construction companies, outdoor labourers will be allowed to rest between 12.30pm and 4.30pm during July and August.

"Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan disliked the sight of workers labouring under the hot sun. It's not in our religion to allow this, nor in our culture," Al Ka'abi said.

The minister said the decision has been formulated after discussions with foreign and local specialists and interest groups. He said companies he consulted were not in favour of having a four-hour break.


Dr Al Ka'abi says the labour ministry unfortunately has no statistics on the numbers of labourers injured or dead through heat stroke and exhaustion:

"But we know there are many."

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6 Comments:

Blogger Keefieboy said...

Very poetic! And it's a very, very sensible decision. But the cynic in me says 'this applies to July and August, giving the construction companies an entire two days to work out the logisitcs '. Hmmm.

29 June, 2005 16:48  
Blogger Bull in a Chinashop said...

SD,
It's better late than never, don't you think?

The leadership in the Emirates is to be commended for this humane gesture.
I can only sincerely hope this model is replicated in Kuwait where the mercury hits through the roof in July & August, making manual labour seem like a cruel joke you wouldn't want to wish on your worst' enemy.

30 June, 2005 17:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The compassionate bodhisatva in me has always concerned over my construction workers. We followed a 2hr break in the day (as opposed to one) and started (and ended) a couple of hours earlier in te morning. These wise, foresighted thinkers of our society havent found it necessary to actually ask the guys under the sun!

All X,000+ of them would rather get home on time and get on with their lives rather that wait about at a construction site (in no air-conditioning!) Which begs the question - what about the guys who're working indoors (with a roof over their heads!)

Buddha's left the building!

05 July, 2005 12:34  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I honestly don't know - I did see that companies were complaining about the problem of lighting up sites at night, as labourers will now be making up the midday break in darkness.

The critical thing it will hopefully do is reduce the number of deaths and serious illness due to dehydration and heat exhaustion, and hopefully keep the workers in better overall health so they will be able to be more productive.

But the prospect of poor/dim light causing work site accidents is another worry.

05 July, 2005 13:19  
Blogger Your Man in Dubai said...

I think I can give a good comment here as I am working most days out in the heat. Sometimes under cover but no AC. The sun does take it out of you working all day but a two hour break for me working in Jebal Ali and leaving work a 6 at night is not an ideal solution to me, neither getting up and starting work at 6 meaning leaving home at around 5 am! As I am only new to my company and this is only my 3 rd month there are am unsure at what they will be doing onver the next few months. At the moment I am in the field and working a ten hour day in the desert.

Also I think I read today that the law has come to a bit of slack end similar to the no smaking in malls law? maybe you could inform me on the actual progress of this law?

07 July, 2005 23:51  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Some of us were discussing this today. It seems that the devil is going to be in the details - just endless loopholes for employers to get around applying it in just about every situation. Alabbar's comments haven't helped either.

07 July, 2005 23:55  

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