x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bosses stay to help 1,500 stranded workers in UAE

The lives of about 1,500 labourers have been thrown into uncertainty after their employer went bankrupt and left the country without compensating them.

Hastie worked on projects worth billions of dirhams in the Gulf, including the new campus of Zayed University and Dalma Mall.
Hastie worked on projects worth billions of dirhams in the Gulf, including the new campus of Zayed University and Dalma Mall.

DUBAI // Five redundant managers of a bankrupt company have stayed on to help and find jobs for 1,500 workers left jobless and stranded by the closure.

Hastie International was one of 44 entities around the world belonging to the Hastie Group, a major Australian contractor that provided industrial air-conditioning, mechanical, electrical and plumbing work.

Most of those stranded are workers who live in labour accommodations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

They were laid off on May 28 of this year with little hope of receiving their end-of-service benefits or being repatriated. They had been struggling to find food and medical attention since.

Hastie's top executives left the country but the five former managers have been trying to find new jobs for the stranded workers.

"I suppose in part we felt an obligation to all the guys to do something, because if we did not who else would?" said Neil Hislop former regional and commercial manager at Hastie International.

He and the four other former managers - Darren Hunt, Charles Lever, Trevor Arkle in Oman, and another who did not wish to be identified - have also been laid off and are acting on their own behalf.

Mr Hislop said that on a personal level, none of the five former managers were prepared to leave the UAE, which they considered their home. They were also looking for employment.

Partly thanks to their efforts, contractors such as Al Futtaim Carillion, Kele Contracting, Zublin and Al Habtoor-Specon for which Hastie used to work have agreed to hire the men and to pay the gratuity owed.

The Ministry of Labour and police, as well as Hastie's local sponsor Global Petroleum, have also pitched in to help.

"So far, most of the workers and staff will have some sort of offer," said Mr Hislop.

The five have also contributed from their own pockets for the men's welfare.

They said they had received no help from the company's Australian administrator, PBB Advisory, which took over matters after Hastie announced it was going bankrupt.

Despite several attempts, The National was unable to reach PBB in Australia.

The company has not yet paid a visit to the UAE, but it did send a representative through FTI, a company based in Hong Kong.

Mr Hislop said the FTI representative arrived in Dubai on the morning of May 28 and left the same day.

"He told us there was no money and all the workforce were stood down," said Mr Hislop, adding that western expatriates and senior managers were advised to leave the UAE immediately.

The next day, the five managers were the most senior former employees still in the region.

Among the people who were left behind were about 950 staff of Hastie International and some 500 people working for Rotary International, a sister company.

But there was no money to provide for the former staff's needs.

"As you can imagine, the last few weeks have not been without their challenges, as we have had hundreds of operatives or staff who are not happy about the situation, and at times it has become fraught," Mr Hislop said.

The situation was so tense that representatives of the Bangladeshi embassy visited the four labour accommodations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to quell tensions, he said.

Hastie worked on projects worth billions of dirhams in the Gulf, including the new campus of Zayed University and Dalma Mall, both in Abu Dhabi.

vtodorova@thenational.ae