x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

May festivities seek to lighten labour

Dubai Municipality is recognising International Workers Day with events it is hosting at labour camps throughout the month of May.

Arm wrestling was part of the festivities organised by Dubai Municipality at Sonapur labour camp in Dubai this month. Duncan Chard for the National
Arm wrestling was part of the festivities organised by Dubai Municipality at Sonapur labour camp in Dubai this month. Duncan Chard for the National

DUBAI // The two adversaries stared across at each other before locking arms in combat, as other workers cheered them on.

But one thing was missing as Mintoo Mia and Ria Ur Rehman joined in battle at Sonapur labour camp - animosity.

The arm wrestle by the construction workers was one of several celebrations organised by Dubai Municipality this month in honour of International Workers Day.

The worldwide celebration has its roots in the labour movement in Chicago in the late 1800s, where workers sought the introduction of the eight-hour working day.

Dubai Municipality has recognised the celebration for three years. Events for the month include cultural activities and entertainment programmes such as bands, dance performances, free medical check-ups and lectures.

And a total Dh500,000 (US$136,000) will be given away to 561 municipality workers for excelling in their work.

At a camp in Muhaisina-2, labourers have taken part in cricket tournaments and martial arts events. They have watched magic shows and movie screenings every evening except Fridays, when events have been running all day.

"It is relaxing to come here after a hard day's work," said Rasul Khan Pathan, a store keeper. "All our friends come down after evening prayers and we shop for clothes or watch some movies together.

"Sometimes there is some music or dance programmes. It's a good way to pass our time in the evenings as nothing happens here for rest of the year."

Mohammed Yusuf, a gardener, said he enjoyed the performances.

"It's nice to see some entertainment at the end of the day," Mr Yusuf said. "We have left our families back home and work hard to make a living here. If there is something fun happening, it makes us forget our worries for a short time."

Although there are many shows on offer, cricket draws the biggest crowd, workers say.

"We love watching teams play," said Joseph Job, who does maintenance work on the Dubai Metro. "It's exciting to see the game and the energy levels among the audience is very high."

Jameel Haider, a gardener and batsman for one of the teams, agreed.

"People come in large numbers to cheer and watch us play," said Mr Haider, who represents Dubai Municipality. "We are confident we'll take the trophy in the finals."

The weekends tend to attract more participants as labourers say they are too tired on work days.

"I am usually very exhausted after work," said Chinna Sailu, a construction worker. "I have to come back and make dinner. After that, I have little energy left to come down. I just want to sleep."

Workers who prefer not to go to the camps' common grounds to see the movies can watch them on DVDs.

"We get to see the same movies in our rooms," said Mr Job, who recently moved to Sonapur. "Besides, it is not always very clear what is on the agenda for the day. So we'd like to stay back in our rooms."

The month-long events are set to end tomorrow but workers said they wished they could continue all year.

"There should be more events for workers," said Shippon Mea, a driver. "It would be great to see labourers' accommodations busy with activities every day.

"We would be so happy if we had something that relieved us of our stress."