Blue collar workers at a labour camp in Azaiba run by Bahwan-Enka-Bechtel (BEB) consortium, which is undertaking the Muscat International Airport expansion project, went on a rampage on Thursday following the death of a sick worker.
The workers alleged that Ghanshyam Prasad, 30, died due to lack of prompt medical attention. A BEB spokeswoman confirmed that there was 'a disturbance' at the camp and said that company representatives would meet the workers on Saturday to discuss the issues involved.
Prasad, a resident of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, was a carpenter by profession. “We asked for a vehicle to take him to the company clinic, which was denied by the management.
"So we physically carried him to the clinic and later took him to hospital, but he died on the way. He was suffering from malaria,” alleged Murugan S, a worker at the camp.
“This angered the nearly 3,000 workers at the camp,” said Sanjay Singh, one of the workers. “The violence started around 4.30pm as the workers ransacked the company clinic and destroyed air-conditioners and office equipment.
“Nearly 20 company vehicles were vandalised and their windows broken. When the security personnel rushed in to quell the violence, the workers brawled with them too. The company mess was also damaged and many of us had to go hungry as a result.”
Normalcy was restored after police arrived on the scene. “The police arrived around 7pm. Despite repeated warnings, the workers were in no mood to go back to their camps, which house nearly 9,000 workers. Normalcy was restored around 9pm,” said another worker, who did not wish to be identified.
No untoward incidents were reported on Friday at the time of going to press. “The situation is calm today, but no supervisor, foreman or camp in charge is present. The mess is working and no serious incidents have been reported so far,” said K P Singh, a worker in the masonry unit.
A BEB spokeswoman said that the company is 'committed to the provision of medical care'. “We can confirm that there has been a disturbance at [the] camp by workers complaining about the quality of care in the clinic.
"We comply with all Omani rules and regulations regarding the conditions and treatment of our workers and are committed to the provision of medical care,” she told Muscat Daily.
“We are listening to workers’ concerns and will be meeting them on Saturday to discuss the issues. Following this, we will issue an official statement.” She declined to provide more details.
Thousands of expatriate workers at BEB went on strike in January (as reported by Muscat Daily on January 16, 2012) to demand better pay, with many subsequently leaving the company and flying back to their countries.
Later, around 30 Omani bus drivers had gone on strike in February, demanding a roll-back on deductions from their salaries.