Yemeni Labor: Too Devastated to Celebrate May 1st [Archives:1999/18/Business & Economy]

May 3 1999

On the First of May, the entire world celebrates Labor Day. This is a holiday for those that represents the national wealth for each society. Laborers are the hope for the future, a better shining future. They deserve the celebration of the entire world on this day for their great contribution to building their countries. Laborers have their own pains and sorrows, they work hard to give their countries and families the best. Do we ever think of them? Of their problems and grievances? What can we do to show them our gratitude so they can keep on giving?
We have spoken to a few people, from very different social levels, regarding the laborer and his day’s work.
The baker:
He was siting in a very hot room and I asked him what Labor Day means to him. He replied, “Labor Day is our day, and it is a good idea so that we could take a day off from work. I asked him if he felt the heat, he replied “Yes, but it is the work I like most, and I can stand everything. I feel quite happy and content, especially when I sell all the bread I make.”
The blacksmith:
We first asked him about his profession, and how did he master it and the obstacles he faces during his work?
He said, “I learned my job from my father when I was very young. There are some obstacles that we face during our work but we overcome most of them in the end. For a blacksmith, there is one particular idea in his mind that he has to work hard to reach. People get the final product without any idea of the process the raw metal has been through.
The sculpture:
Yemeni history shows many signs of sculpting and artistic decorations. Doors and widows have been decorated with beautiful sculpturing and arabesque in almost every part in the country. Ancient Yemeni civilization reflects signs of the Yemeni character as a sculpture and an artist.
Then there are these plastic products that we buy from the market, as well as cloth, household goods, and many other things that we receive manufactured and ready to be used. The carpenter and the electrician and the plumber, there are many professionals who work to facilitate life for us and make the world a better place to live.
This person who does his best to insure a cleaner world for us, who thinks about him, his life, his income, his family and children?
Many questions, and unfortunately they are without answers.
Karama Al Dani is a cleaner in one girl’s high school, a 22 year-old widow with 8 children. She said that she studied through fifth grade, but then she left school. She works two shifts and gets YR 6,000 per month. Karama says that she suffers from the students negligence, they throw trash everywhere but the right place, which causes her to clean the school many times a day.
Ali Al Yasari, a street cleaner, started his work five months ago. He is married with 3 children. Ali said that he and his colleagues work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., and get paid YR 6000 per month. No medical examination or insurance or leaves, nothing but a salary that takes too long to be paid. Ali said that the carelessness of people causes them a lot of trouble, people throw everything on the street without paying any attention to the cleanness of their area and country. This is a poor behavior that deforms the face of the city. The cleaning laborers have many problems, such as lacking any form of medical care or compensation. The cleaner confronts various form of sickness due to his direct contact with dust and garbage. No masks are distributed to cleaners to help them avoid diseases, and most of them have air passage diseases.
We asked Ahmed Mohammed, a college student his opinion regarding cleaners and the work they perform? Ahmed said that the cleaner is an employee like other employees in offices and factories. He may be at a lower level, but as long as he does his work and earns his living he is no different than others.
Then we asked another person his opinion on cleaning labor, he replied “They do good work, but there is a sign of a management problem somewhere, either the labor or the manager, since there is still dirt and trash almost everywhere.
Those laborers suffer from many things, such as late and very low salaries, lack of masks, shoes and uniforms and no efficient an d new garbage containers. People should look at their condition, and help to improve their situation. After all, they are cleaning the city in which we all live, a matter that vitally concerns our health, not to mention public images of the city.
The daily paid laborer:
We asked one laborer sitting in the street, who looked very tired, he said he earns YR 400-500 a day. He smokes and chews qat, but occasionally he quits these habits to save money for more important things. He told his story of exhaustion and sorrow. Coming from the village and working with people who ignore his origin, if he was injured or died his family wouldn’t know, and medical student would dissect his body.
Daily paid laborers sit on the streets waiting for a chance to work, while they should have a particular place of their own. It is not a good image to the city, but it is not our decision. Maybe the concerned parts could consider this fact, and come up with a useful solution for all sides.
Finally, we would like to present all laborers our best on their Day, thanking them for their hard work. Here’s wishing them a better and brighter future.
By: Hanan Abad Al Humaidi