x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Mandatory breaks end, but fasting workers can still finish work early

The two-month requirement for companies to give labourers a break in the middle of the day ended yesterday.

A labourer on a site off Muroor Road in Abu Dhabi takes advantage of the last day of the mandatory midday break rule on Monday.
A labourer on a site off Muroor Road in Abu Dhabi takes advantage of the last day of the mandatory midday break rule on Monday.

ABU DHABI // The two-month requirement for companies to give labourers a break in the middle of the day ended yesterday, but many workers still finished their workday at 1pm because of Ramadan. On several sites, fasting workers stopped at 1pm and returned to their camps. Those workers not fasting stayed and worked regular hours.

Before Ramadan, workers either took a break at their sites, most of which provide fans and shade, or went elsewhere and returned to start work again at 3pm. Figures for the number of companies fined for breaches of the break law are expected to be released today. Halfway through the two-month period, the Ministry of Labour said it had issued a third more fines than in the same period last year. MJ Raja, an Indian electrician working on a building site in Muroor, said he would return to work after his lunch, while most of his fasting colleagues were going back to their camps to rest, bathe, pray and prepare food for iftar.

"My company told me the non-fasting workers will be back to regular work starting [today]," Mr Raja said. "But for those who are fasting, if they want to work after 1pm, they will be paid overtime. But most of my friends will return to their camps." His friends, Said ul Islam and Abdul Kalam Azad, both from Bangladesh, are fasting, and they waited to board buses to return to their camps at 1pm. "We work in the shade so it is not as bad, and our supervisor takes care to put those who are fasting in areas where the work is not as hard," Mr Islam said.

They were told by their companies that the midday break was coming to an end yesterday. "It does not really matter this year, because of Ramadan, so we will continue working only till 1pm, after which we can go back and prepare for iftar," Mr Islam said. Mr Azad said he would consider working a few hours after 1pm for the overtime pay. "Some days if there is a delay in the project we are working on, I don't mind spending one or two extra hours on the site because there is overtime," he said. "And with that money, I look forward to celebrating Eid."

Syed Shakir, from India, said that although he worked on the top floors of a building on Muroor Street, he was maintaining his fast. "There is nothing one can do. One must work and one must observe their fast," he said. "I don't want to work overtime because it is very hard after a few hours in the heat." Rahmat Aziz, a driver who had come to pick up a dozen workers at one of the sites, said he was told to continue his mid-afternoon routes between Abu Dhabi and Musaffah until the end of Ramadan.

"I was told that the break would be ending but to continue my work because a lot of workers are fasting and I have to continue picking them up," he said. "Some of them are very tired by the end of the day and I think it is hard for them to be fasting and working, even if it is reduced hours. So I try to get them back to their camps as soon as possible so at least they can rest." sbhattacharya@thenational.ae