Action sought to end workers' travel woes.
Most construction companies in Qatar continue to transport their workers in non-air conditioned buses in the scorching summer months, despite requests from several quarters to ensure that the workers' travel is made comfortable.Sometime back, a rare classified advertisement appeared in this newspaper, in which the advertiser sought air-conditioned buses to ferry his company's workers between their place of residence and work site on the western side of Doha.
Inquiries found that the Western expatriate who inserted the advertisement was a newcomer to the country.
The reason for the individual, who was an administration manager with an American company to put the advertisement for air-conditioned buses, was the common sight of construction workers being transported across the country, mostly on buses without air-conditioning during the region's scorching summer months between May and September.
A close look at the way the construction workers are transported across the country would reveal that even a journey on the Mowasalat public transport buses, is a luxury for a large segment of workers, as the buses operated by the government transport company are air-conditioned and provides better comfort for its passengers.
This newspaper had also earlier found that one of the many reasons why public transport buses from the Industrial Area which come to the city during weekends were crowded, was because many of the passengers avoided travel on their companies' non-air conditioned buses
Recently, workers at some camps on the outskirts of Al Khor town sought extension of Mowasalat bus services to the area where they resided, which is about 3kms from the central part of the northern town.
One of the reasons they cited for the request was the absence of air-conditioning in their companies' buses that ferry them to Doha during weekends.
"It is difficult to bear with sweltering conditions during the more than 90-minute one-way journey to Doha and also while coming back," said a worker residing in one of the numerous camps in the area.
When contacted for their explanation on transporting construction workers in non-air conditioned buses, it was found that a number of companies' transport officials had no qualms in acknowledging what they had been doing.
"We have been doing this for several years and until now there are no clear instructions from the ministries concerned on the mode of transportation of workers," said a transport manager at a company in Al Khor. Inquiries in the northern town also found that while office staffers travel between their accommodation and work site on buses with air-conditioning, the less privileged workers had no option but to bear with trying conditions in their non-air conditioned buses during the hot summer.
Many of such workers need to travel in buses without air conditioning for at least an hour between their camps and work sites, sources said
Construction workers are a section that suffers the fury of hot conditions much more severely than any other workers' group in the country.
Notwithstanding this, they also happen to be perhaps the only group that is subjected to the worst travel conditions among various types of workers in the country.
At a meeting addressed by representatives of the Human Rights Watch last month in Doha, its officials specifically highlighted the issue of transportation of construction workers in the countries of the region. The forum was then given assurances by the Ministry of Labour about introducing better transport facilities for construction workers.
The country's sole public transport bus provider, Mowasalat had sometime back announced its plans to introduce air-conditioned buses for transporting workers during the summer months and the announcement was also wholeheartedly welcomed by workers across the country.
"There is no guarantee that contracting companies would buy such air-conditioned buses unless the law is properly enforced by the authorities, making transportation of workers on air-conditioned buses mandatory," said a company official.
Inquiries with a prominent firm supplying buses for ferrying construction workers found that only a microscopic minority among the construction firms are transporting their workers in air-conditioned buses.
"Out of the numerous inquiries that we got earlier this year, only one American-managed company in Ras Laffan sought air-conditioned buses for transporting workers," said an official of a transport rental firm.
With the ministry's strict guidelines prohibiting outdoor work between 11.30am and 3pm being implemented, a similar enforcement of law on transporting workers in air-conditioned buses during summer months would considerably improve the workers' morale and their health.
The beneficiaries would obviously be the companies who would be able to complete their work on schedule.
Gulf Times Newspaper 2012
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