x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Lifesaver for those in the labour pool

You come to a new country, eager to work hard to improve the lot for your loved ones at home. But who can you turn to when the dream sours and your sponsor company folds? If the noble notions of an Indian executive are realised, just about anyone.

Anil Upadhyaya, from Nepal, has found a new job after the failure of his first employer.
Anil Upadhyaya, from Nepal, has found a new job after the failure of his first employer.

DUBAI // Anil Upadhyaya borrowed 40,000 Nepalese rupees (Dh1,832) from friends and family to come to the UAE and fulfil one simple goal - provide a decent life for his wife and daughter back home.

But after only five months at Systems Engineering, Mr Upadhyaha, 26, was left penniless when the company failed and its owner fled the country.

"The future looked very bleak for me," he says. "All my dreams crashed with the closing of the company."

Mr Upadhyaya is one of thousands of low-income workers who would benefit from the Dubai businessman Deepak Sharma's re-employment idea.

The chief executive of QBG Services, an integrated facility management company, is calling on companies to make recruiting abandoned and unpaid labourers part of their corporate social-responsibility strategies.

And Mr Sharma wants authorities to get on-board with the idea, to make transferring visas for those left in the lurch an easier process.

"It would help the workers a lot," he says. "They could stay on in the country and earn money, rather than being forced to go back to their countries after a company is shut."

Being able to employ unskilled workers from a pool of abandoned or unpaid labourers would also help to address the shortage of manpower many companies face, and lower the cost of recruiting.

"It would help so many companies," says Mr Sharma, who is looking to employ 50 security guards, 100 cleaners and 20 gardeners, among other vacancies.

"I have sent a proposal to the Indian consulate, as well as the Indian Community Welfare Committee [ICWC], asking them to assist us in this endeavour."

Under the Labour Law, a worker who loses his job is allowed to stay in the country for a short period of time.

Those still under contract must produce a no-objection certificate from their previous employer.

K Kumar, the convener of the ICWC, says he thinks the idea is marvellous.

"It's a very good move," Mr Kumar says. "More companies should think along those lines so abandoned workers can find employment in the country. It will also boost the local economy."

The ICWC assisted in the re-employment of about 40,000 illegal workers during the 2007 amnesty by the Ministry of Labour.

Mr Kumar says the group would be happy to help any company that was seeking to do the same.

Systems Engineering was a steel- fabrication and engineering company with offices in Sharjah and Dubai. It was founded in 1997 by Joseph D'Souza, an Indian businessman who fled the UAE last December after his businesses failed.

Mr D'Souza is not the only businessman to have jumped ship in recent years.

Although no figures are available from the Ministry of Labour, Saher Shaikh, a philanthropist in Dubai who helps to feed abandoned labourers, says she knows of five companies that have left workers in the lurch in the past 10 months.

Mrs Shaikh says that last year she helped to feed more than 2,000 abandoned labourers, and about the same in 2010.

Most of Mr D'Souza's 400 workers have been repatriated. Mr Upadhyaya is one of the few who has found a job elsewhere in Dubai.

"I never wanted to go back to Nepal and remain unemployed," he says. "One of my friends helped me in finding a new job."

The former rigger now works as a waiter in a Dubai Marina restaurant.

"It's a big relief that I found another job," says Mr Upadhyaya.

He says the job is more difficult than his previous one, but he is ready to work hard.

"The company said they would process my new visa and would also offer me accommodation. It's a good thing," Mr Upadhyaya says.

frahman@thenational.ae