Thousands of South Asian workers strike at Oman airport

Stoppage likely to cause delay to $1.8 billion contract to build the new terminal

(Picture for illustrative purposes only)

(Picture for illustrative purposes only)

Thousands of South Asian labourers working on the expansion of Muscat airport downed tools on Tuesday in a rare strike to demand better safety conditions after a worker died in an accident, a company official and workers said.

The work stoppage is likely to cause further delay to a $1.8 billion contract to build the new terminal which the Omani government awarded in 2010 to BEB, a joint venture of US company Bechtel and Turkey's Enka (ENKAI.IS).

An Indian worker died late on Monday when he was run over by a bus belonging to the contractor, workers and a BEB official said.

"We will not go to work today unless our company assures us that they will revise safety standards at our work place," Mohan Raman, a worker with the contractor BEB, told Reuters on Tuesday.

"We have 10,000 workers and most of them are on strike," said the BEB official, who asked not to be named. "We are improving safety standards to make sure such accidents will never happen again."

The extension of Muscat airport was originally scheduled to be completed by end of this year, but officials said last year it is now expected to finish by the end of 2014 due to soft ground in the middle of the new runway.

Strikes rarely take place in Oman and other Gulf Arab states which employ million of South Asians, mostly blue-collar construction workers. Most of the strikes are over pay.

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Posted by: Wildwine

@John, Thamir & Peter; I have experience in dealing with many construction entities from various parts of the world (Europe, SKorea, India, Australia & Japan) as well as local entities; these include companies that built UAE's infrastructure and iconic structures and continue to pick all high profile projects in the region (including that in the oil & gas sector).
Over 75% of the labour force of these entities is from the sub-continent. Since quality of UAE infrastructure is definitely world class; I do not see lack of skill there. Poor quality in certain real estate projects is hardly attributable to the skill level of workers. So seriously I do not see any point in your comment.
I have also dealt with Chinese companies; yes they do employ Chinese labour however not exclusively. Yes the skill level of Chinese labour may be high due to better experience, but is less mobile due to better opportunities in China.
BTW I do not see what politeness & hygiene got to do with skill!

Posted by: Peter

John, Fair point based on your experience with their skill set

Thamir, Fair point based on your experience and exposure

Posted by: Imran Ismael

to Thamir:
Racism is a disease. only you can heal yourself. try not to let your faults overrule your logic. use logic, to make your decisions.
it is logical, to hire a workforce that has the skill level to complete the job.
it is logical, to give them adequate protection, to carry out their work. Both, as a fellow human being, and as a unit of production. if you take care of your assets, they will be more productive, more efficient. human or mechanical.
I agree the the construction in China, is impressive.
so the fact that Chinese Laborers are probably more skilled, has nothing to do with the rest of your comment.
The people in Charge, they know what they are doing. that is why they are in charge, and you are where you are, and I am where I am.
Racism is a disease. only you can heal yourself. try and learn.

Posted by: John

Ever been to China? If I were a GCC country, I would hire a Chinese construction firm and build adequate housing in the desert with the agreement that at the end of the contract they go home. Many of these sub-continent workers are unskilled and with 1100 of them falling off the scaffolding in Qatar, is that really the contracters fault, or in this case getting hit by a bus? The construction in China is great and these construction companies would bring an experienced and qualified labour force to the GCC. Maybe the GCC should start questioning the validity in hiring a work force from the sub-continent.

Posted by: kingkaiser

Jon, just so we're clear: you're saying that it is a workers fault for falling off scaffolding, NOT the company's that didnt provide them with adequate safety (hard hats are a recent addition here!). Ever been to the west?

Thamir, was wondering when we'd see your take on things. How does politeness come into it? You dont seem like the sort of person who would be indulging in pleasantries with these workers. "Over staying"? These people are here on visas, they usually stay as long as there is demand for their work! "Crime prone"? Apart from the horrible crime of striking for your rights, I dont see these guys in the news much relative to population.
"More skilled"...last I checked, the skill comes from the projects you've been working on - these are the same guys who worked on virtually all the monuments in Dubai including the Burj...

Posted by: Thamir Ghaslan

My thoughts EXACTLY while reading this article and your comment!

If I was in any position of authority I'd hire a more polite, more hygienic, less over staying and crime prone, less whining, and more skilled Chinese over South Asians.

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