COMMON SENSE Yemeni Labor: Victims, Wherever They Work [Archives:2000/18/Focus]

May 1 2000

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
No one in his right mind would like to return to the former radical rhetoric of the Cold War years, where Marxists throughout the world where calling for the rise of the Proletariat a call for a cause that has become one of those forgotten causes that made a lot of noise but practically proved to be a flop. In fact, it is clear that Marxism was doomed to collapse. A mutation of the Industrial Revolution, Marxism was doomed to failure from the start, because, first of all, it amounted to nothing more than rhetoric without substance and second of all, the followers where unable to unleash the intellect to progress as rapidly as it could, under a more open and democratic society than that envisaged by the followers of Marx. It is difficult to perceive that any order based on principles that fail to give a proper accounting of human nature and that turn men into quantified elements that fall into the matrices of scientific socialist planners is bound to plummet against regimes that cater more to the personal side of dealing with human beings.
Interestingly enough, when the Soviet Union was undergoing its demise, this observer was having a chat with a close friend, Al-Qadhi Abdulsalam Sabra, who is one of the early patriots of the Yemeni Revolution and a former Vice President. The latter was retelling the tale of an earlier trip to Moscow, in the Mid-Sixties, when the Soviet Union was at the summit of its power and strength. Leading the delegation was Al-Qadhi Abdurrahman Al-Iriany, the former President of Yemen, who died a couple of years ago in Damascus. While the Soviet leaders at the time continued to brag about the achievements of the Bolshevik Revolution and Marxism in general, the late Mr. Iryany was the least impressed by all the propaganda speeches aired by their hosts. Of course, the religious scholarly wisdom of the former President of Yemen would never be able to stomach the idea of any regime that refused to have anything to do with faith in God, or any religious beliefs, and which indiscriminately found no reason to hesitate against destroying all semblance of organized and unorganized religion. Mr. Sabra said that Mr. Iriany waited until the end of the speeches and immediately and confidently spoke: Your power and all that you stand for is bound to collapse. As long as your dogma entails atheism and the denunciation of all faith in God, there is just no way that God can ever allow you to prevail, even if your dogma claims to uphold the rights of the workers and peasants of the world and all that rhetoric, and even if your enemies happen to be the devious western powers that have brought havoc to the rest of the world for their own interests.” Sure enough Mr. Iriany lived to see his prophecy come true, God bless his soul.
So, all that stands to remain out of all the noise made by the champions of the working classes of the world is the May Day celebrations that are a worldwide event.
Even the extreme radical regime of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) has collapsed and the proponents of the once vocal regime that sent scares throughout the traditional bastions of the Arabian Peninsula could not hold out very much longer after their Moscow mentors collapsed.
Notwithstanding all the above, as far as the labor scene in Yemen, it is clear that the Yemeni workers and employees have a long way to go before seeing any fulfillment of the rights and privileges enjoyed by workers, even in the most extreme capitalist fortresses of the world. The truth of the matter is the Yemeni workers are the least cared for work force in the world. Even when they migrate to work overseas, they are bound to be treated in the worst manner and their rights are taken away from them, without anyone at home to safeguard such rights and without any gratitude by those who they served so diligently for so many years until the host states became modern countries, which blamed them for the misguided policies of their governments, when they knew full well that this government was not acting based on the reflection of the will of the people or on sound political and economic wisdom.
The labor force of Yemen is, primarily, composed of unskilled and to a certain extent semi-skilled workers, with a very small elite force of professionals. The work force is not balanced by the availability of a meaningful technical and vocational skilled work force. Thus, most of this labor force is engaged in unstable employment, as daily wage earners or seasonal agricultural workers that are subject to an array of coincidental circumstances that eventually lead to sporadic waves of migration and a pose a nightmare for any development planning t~o speak of.
What it boils down to, is that the Yemeni laborer and employee is the victim of neglect and contempt, whether as private sector employees or government staff. Moreover, the efforts towards upgrading the skills of the Yemeni workforce have been primarily limited to only gracious assistance provided by the German Government and the training and experience gained while working in overseas labor markets, where they were not really allowed to develop much, for fear that they would be influential in activating for more political or civil rights.
On the other hand, even those with the proper academic qualifications are not provided with sufficient practical on-the-job training that enables them to adapt acquired academic knowledge to practical experience, and thus even the educationally equipped Yemeni employees are not allowed the full potential of their capabilities and knowledge.
Moreover, even in the senior and mid-level management fields it is also evident that the positions are usually meted out on the basis of family or clan affiliation or political considerations and without serious consideration of capabilities and anticipated productivity. This is of course at the expense of efficiency and optimization of the human resources available.
The problem starts at the legal and the institutional level. The Labor Law and the Civil Service Laws, both of which are supposedly issued to safeguard the rights of the human resources of the country in the private and public sectors respectively are obvious drawbacks that work against the upgrading of the treatment of Yemeni employees and laborers. In fact, there have been occasions when this observer was told by very senior officers in both Ministries (Labor and Civil Service), when advocating for any employees of either sector) that “Yes, you are right, Hassan, but unfortunately the Law does not see it that way!” I am puzzled as to why these officials have not cared to try to amend the laws accordingly, as they are professionally bound to do by their positions and responsibility as such.
On the other hand, when we look to see what the poor employees and laborers have done to try to remedy the underdog status they are forced to live under, it is clear that the government will just not tolerate any form of organized protest and severely punishes even the thought of organizing a strike. Note that the Constitution clearly guarantees the right of association and the right of unions to take any action to foster the interests of their constituents, but the subsequent specialized legislation that followed and their executive by-laws work diligently to stall any efforts at turning constitutional assurances to clear logical mandates that reflect them. In fact, it seems that the intentions behind such legislation and executive procedures are to kill whatever constitutional arrangements are envisaged accordingly. Without a clearly defined mandate for the courts to interpret all laws based on their constitutional preludes accordingly, one is easily bound to find that the Constitution is outdone by Executive Decrees of the lowest Executive Officer to suit his own interests. Moreover, even in the areas where the labor law has given some semblance of rights to workers, the private sector employees are not at all hesitant about throwing such rights out the windows and many of them have never even heard that there is a Labor Law.
As for the Civil Service employees, their lot has been squashed years ago with the passage of the Unified Civil Service Code of 1983, and it has been downhill since for both the quality of the performance of the government employees and the living standard once enjoyed by government staff at all levels. One might even surmise that it is these legislation that have become a major motivation for the corruption that prevails in the government sector and the inability of the private sector to develop into a dynamic and vibrant business environment. Happy May Day to all the workers of Yemen wherever they are.