Company rewards 500 labourers with New Year's feast
SHARJAH // While tens of thousands descended on Downtown Dubai to see in the new year, others chose silence over fireworks and made their way to the desert. Among them were 500 workers from the GECO Mechanical and Electrical Company, who were treated to a barbecue and celebration by their employers.
"It was a way to give back to the workers," said Saaduddin Ahmed, a senior administrator at the company. "They work all day. And do overtime to earn more."
Labourers make do with the basic necessities most of the year, and splashing out on New Year's Eve was not something they could afford, he added.
So on the outskirts of Sharjah, GECO workers feasted and enjoyed their own celebrations. In this uninterrupted horizon, away from the busy city centres, all that could be seen were dozens of men standing around bonfires, rubbing their hands to keep warm in the cool desert air.
"It was the first time labourers had mingled openly with the bosses," said Syed Haider Mehdi, a 32-year-old labour camp supervisor. "When I heard about the outing, I thought it would be something small, but it was beyond my expectations."
The workers were mostly from Pakistan. They had come to the UAE to support their families back home, which prevented frivolous spending.
For Salman Karim, 24, the new year offered an opportunity to make some extra cash by putting in extra hours at work.
Some who would have liked to have celebrated said that they did not have the means to do so. Their life was restricted to the construction site during the day and labour camps in the evenings.
The workers were in a festive mood as they got into buses from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Fujairah for the long trek to the desert.
Shakir Ahmed, 39, an air-conditioning technician from Mumbai, sang popular love songs from Bollywood movies as he boarded the bus in Musaffah.
He said he was happy to be with friends, but missed his family, especially his six-year-old daughter.
At about 2am, as they returned to their camps, the workers declared the event a great success.
Updated: January 2, 2011 04:00 AM