Understanding Labor Accommodation Facilities Management
in the United Arab Emirates.
By Deborah Gay D. Estacio
10 Important Things That You Should Know
The United Arab Emirates population is hugely composed of immigrants. In the 2011 International Immigration survey; 70% of UAE population comprises migrants, 27.4% of it are women. Looking at the statistics closely; as to the estimated labor force within that percentage, 85.2% (of the 70% population share) are male laborers while the women labor force share the 14.8% (of the 27.4%). The International Labour Organization predicted or estimated a shoot up of about 1.03% growth yearly and that is interpreted as 1,183,600 labor force by the year 2030. Abu Dhabi Region and Abu Dhabi Emirate labor force share 83% and 84% respectively, according to the 2012 AD Statistics Center survey. The numbers are growing due to the huge developments, projects opportunities, and investments advancement programs that the country planned; most of them are now on progress.
Now, the questions (aside from “where did they all come from) are; where do these laborers live/stay? Who accommodates them, and how are they taken care of?
To address the need; the government of Abu Dhabi assigned the Higher Corporation for Specialized Economic Zones or ZonesCorp to develop several cities that aimed to home the labor force in a confined city, one of Zones Corp’s objectives is to develop labour accommodation in accordance with the highest levels of human rights guidelines and build supporting infrastructure to create worker communities.
Here is where the facility management (for labor accommodation services) companies come in:
The collaborative efforts of the government agencies managing this sector needs the full cooperation of the facility management operators to be able to achieve a common goal, and that is – to provide accommodation to the workforce/laborers WITH THE HIGHEST LEVEL of Human Rights. How is this really tackled down there? In my humble opinion, there are few basic things that these managers/operators need to understand. So I am writing these things down:
- Understand different cultures, traditions and values.
Know the different nationalities of the residents living in your facility. Take note of the important details that each nationality requires. Know their food preferences, recreation interests, privacy standards, religious values and even their nation’s important festivity days. These details will enhance their spirit of belonging to your community. Knowing them and realizing the importance of designing a special procedure that addresses them through understanding their cultural beliefs give them a feeling of being appreciated and welcome.
- Respect ITEM 1.
In the details gathered from Item 1, try to administer each of them with due respect. Create policies that attend to each nationality and explain the restrictions with reference to others as well. Create a balance between them. Surely no one can make everybody happy; it’s a dream of a perfect world, but you can always communicate, with high regard of respect.
Take for example the following:
- Catering service; design a set of menu that includes multi-nationality special food, festivity food and their service preferences.
- Recreation facility must be consist of various activities, one per nationality maybe, if you have 10 nationalities or more, align your activities to those that have similar rules. Invite them to participate with others so they will have the chance to learn and appreciate each other as well.
- Movie times must be scheduled systematically and try to choose their local movies accordingly.
- Festivities are very important to them; therefore, try to research more about how they do it and get them involved in any of your preparations. The National Day celebration for each country must be respected and properly celebrated. You may include them in your calendar of activities and disseminate the information on the dates and timings you wish to give respect to it.
- For religious matters; allot a place where they can practice their religious activities with high regard to privacy and solemnity.
- In announcing your company rules and regulations; do it in different foreign languages. Do not expect them to understand the common rules at once. Communicate them in such a way that they will comprehend properly and that is through their own native tongue.
- Laborers NEED to feel welcome and at home.
A labor accommodation facility is practically a home for migrant workers. Home away from home as they call it. And the team management is not their employers, but rather they home employees. That is one reality that is missed by a lot of people assigned to manage this kind of facility. The International industry category where the labor accommodation facility management belongs is the Hospitality, Tourism and Catering Management or HTCM. In short, the residents are to taken care of like those of hotel guests. The big difference that is missed by a lot of managers is that they think labor accommodation residents are mere laborers so no special treatment is given. That is wrong. In fact, if not for the government’s legislation that they must be accommodated in a confined and controlled city; they can actually opt to stay someplace else. But since companies who hired them are mandated, compliance is a must. There is where we, facility managers come in.
The objective of management is to provide a safe and healthy environment to the residents. A kind of environment that should protect the workers’ rights and well-being should be the management’s drive. To deliver that into achievement requires formula and proper system. But to simplify; I should let the experts design the system, my purpose here is to reach the level of the day-to-day site-based legwork personnel. To simply say; the aim is to let the workers feel that they are really home. This includes services availability that a person needs as if he was in his own home. So in your management scheme; always think or imagine yourself in the scenario. If you are at home and you are tired from work; what are the things you need and how convenient would it be for you to get them, and within the same scenario on you, imagine preparing yourself in the morning before going to your daily work. Six days of work, a day off, 365 a year, what would you have to reward yourself at the end of each day? The answer is a good night’s rest, and a worry free home.
- Listen to their opinions and get them involved.
Labor facility is managed by various organizations or companies. Some of them provides full services, some hire second and some third-party specialty service providers. Regardless of your company set-up, it is important to rule out the exclusivity of plans and methods. You must get your residents involved. Anyhow, they are the ones who will benefit from the services. In short, if your team gets too many a complaint from any of the service provider, the end bottom is that you will be forced to replace your contractor, before a riot arises. So here are some tips:
- Involve your residents. Not all of them, but choose a leader, or ask their company officers to task a representative. In many cases, workers are sent with a camp boss, or a camp supervisor which is tasked to manage the employees. The camp boss is a reliable representative of the residents.
- Since the labor accommodation facility management is composed of at least 10 major departments; enlighten the representatives of the activities according to concerned departments | services. Never call for a meeting to discuss all 10 department issues. Better to schedule them by areas of concern.
- Earlier notification of the meeting agenda is of high importance. This will save you time to gather their thoughts during the meeting itself. This idea also gives the representative an ample time to gather the suggestions and complaints of the residents under his care. It will as well help the representative to eliminate the concerns that are the same, or provide just a summary, and then he will be ready to be the voice and ears of his people.
- Open the discussion and gather additional input from other representatives. This way they know that your team is giving high respects to their opinions.
- Try to prioritize the rectifications according to need. Never promise the things that you feel are not within your capacity to decide on. Leave these items to the higher management, but commit to follow through and to notify them the soonest. Align the rectifications plan to the activities involved and to the availability of your team’s resources.
- Coordinate with the service providers, the FM supervisors and managers and have a centralized calendar that indicates the timings allotted to take the actions and expected completion.
- Always update the participants and discuss the completion of the items in your succeeding meetings. It will help everybody to realize that their participation is valued and that the concerns of the residents have been attended to.
- Services MUST be provided at the PROMISED time.
As I have mentioned above, services are provided by different contractors. It is very important that your team analyses the timing of delivery for the required services. Your operations department and your operations manual shall indicate the schedules that must be followed. Once you have the pattern and you feel that they are doable at a given time; that is the only time you can announce the schedule. Remember always that the workers have limited time; they leave early and come home tired, so they expect that their concerns are well attended to as you promised them.
This item goes very well with:
- Catering services: meal timings are limited, and according to your villages’ capacity; ensure that everybody dines within the allotted timings only. Late services are not acceptable. It may be for some time, but it shall never be acceptable for long-term, or repeated incidents unless you are ready for a riot. L
- Laundry services: the clothes that they use for working must NOT be delivered late. You actually know what happens to you when you know you need your clothes and they’re not there, so I need not expound.
- Housekeeping services: again, as earlier said. Treat the labors like hotel guests. Just ensure that the rooms, ablutions and surroundings are cleaned as you scheduled them to. The more organized and consistent your management is, the easier it will be. Why? –because when workers see that your team is consistently cleaning, they themselves will improve in fixing their own stuff and will be aware of NOT throwing garbage here and there. The tidier the place is the better. Consistency counts here.
- ACT on the issues AT ONCE before they take action.
This one can be avoided if your team will do the Items 1 to 5. Always remember that the workers do not and will not at once realize that the problems might be from some failures caused by your service providers. Since you or the team, meaning the management is in the frontline, the blame is always on you. That is precisely the main reason that the residents representatives must get involved with the management-service provider-residents group meetings.
Impatience, frustration and unsatisfactory services drive the workers to rebellion and rebellion is translated by them as riot. Nobody likes that. But again, as I said; it can be avoided. Communicate.
- Be HONEST in your limitations.
In your communication with the residents; (it is actually helpful to do this whenever a group is checking in, or during the induction period), present to them your team structure. A simple work structure with flow that they can understand will help give them the idea that the management is running with a system. This suggestion also defines in their understanding, that the management has personnel assigned to do a particular department/service, and that the help desk is their center for all their concerns. Explain the link to them so they know the limitations of each. This is not an overnight understanding for them, just be consistent enough until they get used to it. But then again, do it with respect. As they come, always remind them that their concern will be linked to:__ and that they will be notified of its progress. Ensure them that the item will be attended to, accordingly.
We human beings are very sensitive no matter what level in society are we in.
- They are the one’s paying your salaries and wages.
They expect a good treatment.
Laborers are workers. They work on hard labor and it’s almost every time after a long tiring day’s duty that they go back to the accommodation facility; dead tired. They actually fall asleep on the bus. The last thing that they want to do is rest and in the morning they want to feel fresh for another day. This goes the same to those having night duties. While they are out, it is the best time to give your team’s best service so they don’t get disturbed. Management methodology and strategic scheduling is the key to achieving this goal. Take care of the common facilities and those areas that are utilized by many during the holidays and common day off. Give them the best service possible, they will stay and bring more people.
- The Labor Accommodation facility is NOT a prison cell.
This item is for the management and its employee resources. Please never hire anybody whom you think will undermine the residents. The workers have had enough troubles in their own daily lives, never give them another one, by employing personnel who will discriminate them, or shout at them or treat them like prisoners.
Policies can be communicated well without having to raise voices. Residents will obey and respect if you give them the nobility they deserve and vise versa.
Penalties can be imposed well without having to be rude.
Everything inside the village can be managed in a diplomatic way, and it takes good people with good hearts to do that.
10. Know and practice the rules, regulations, mandates and regulations.
The labor accommodation facility management is guided by legislative policies that is inspected, monitored and audited by the government’s designated agencies. Before anything else; know them and get used to the procedures. The same policies must be reflected in the step by step methodologies that your team will utilize to handle the day-to-day operations, so ensure that your strategies are aligned to them. Keep your team posted on the amendments, new regulations, and updates provided by the agencies and leave enough rooms for adjustment.
In all that you do inside the accommodation facility; always remember that there are eyes and ears around you. Non-compliance means penalty. Whether sanction or fees, they are still penalties and you would not want to be branded as such. Your team is your soldier in the field; let them be equipped and well-informed. The key to this is to understand the flow and take immediate actions before the authorities find the things unattended or ignored. Create a 10 major services/departments full control team; task them by department, each one responsible enough to handle their own section.
Develop a pro-active team. Their actions and prompt delivery of services will define your team’s unity. The results in the performance audit cycles will define your management integrity.
We FM operators must work together for the achievement of the common goal. We may have our own company goals that reflect on our cash-flows; but let us not forget the primary or basic variable that composes our cash-flows, under the equation is the Laborers. The workforce, or the labor force that put us all in this business opportunity. Let us make our efforts worthy of their trust.
Aside Posted on Updated on
I don’t have PhD, MA or whatever prestigious abbreviations or initials that come after my name. I am just me.
By God’s grace, I was able to write technical compliance books,methodologies, manuals, legislative policies tailored to site based operations, administration methodology, International law based training modules, leadership books, environment or climate change project documents, non-government project papers, cooperative livelihood project designs, political protocol, campaign strategies, economic analysis, behavioral justifications, and so on, I stopped counting already. Most of my works are implemented and is up to now being used by most of my previous principals. I am happy and content. I don’t feel like bragging about it, but my father insisted that I publish them when he was still alive. He always believed in me, and so does my mother.
I used to laugh at the joke that one is perfectly beautiful, only before his parents’ eyes. I was afraid that the same joke would be on me; that my works are only great before my parents’ eyes, until I got a commendation from the distinct office of the Abu Dhabi Emirates, the Higher Corporation for Specialized Economic Zones, or Zones Corp. My fulfillment is beyond words.
I love to explore, I am an adventurer. may it be physically nurturing, mentally or spiritually; I will do it. Believe me, I will never stop. I remember a lot of times, being asked if I could do something, without thinking twice I would say “Yes”. And my worries would come later. All I need to know is how much time do I have and that’s it. I will deliver. How I do it? I actually don’t know. It comes naturally, but none of you will believe me. Because as experts always say, to be an “expert” with something; one needs a proportioned time of hands-on experience on the particular task or profession, before he may be called a real expert. So I thought.
My story is not common I want to believe. Because all the people I have talked to, or I have shared my life’s challenges with, would say its been an extraordinary and they have not heard anything like it. I want to believe though, but sometimes I feel like I am just being pleased. Or maybe after they heard me, cried with me, or laughed with me as I tell my tale; in the end they want to make me feel good. No matter how and why; I still think I am not different. I know somewhere around this world, somebody can relate to me and the stories I have had is the same as what they went through. I am waiting for that day. And the only way to find out, is write about them. Maybe one day, I will receive a letter of appreciation, from someone who walked the same path.
At the age of 7, in the Philippines, that would be in grade 1 school level. My mother told me that I was bringing home too much money, or coins, which she said I kept in an egg-shaped container. She would find it in my skirt pocket as she does her cleaning routine and the rest of my coins would fall from everywhere. I would always ask for a new pack or bundle of paper. She and my father wondered what kind of public school would ask for too many papers, almost everyday, so they went to find out. To their surprise; they found me in the corner of my classroom, selling papers to my classmates. I was never questioned by my parents. I only learned about this when I was in high school.
One or two instances that I really can recall was when my parents were called for a parents meeting with the school guidance counselors. I did not know they were called that day, I was surprised because at that same day, I had a punishment. I was reprimanded by my teacher and I was asked to stand up at the back, on top of the teacher’s table. For what? well, I did a scam. All my classmates hated me, especially the boys.
I found my brother’s toys. You know the little army plastic toys? Those that stand and posed like they were in a war? My brothers, I have three, have their collection. And I thought, because they are most often scattered around the house rather than kept in a box, I could make use of them. So I planned my marketing strategy. I was 9 years old, in my third grade.
There is this game or rather trick on sale everywhere near the school gate, which is locally named “palabunutan” or “toss-up”. The numbers match some items, one must pay and given a chance to rub the paper cubes. It was a two layer paper, on top were just box or cube shapes, below are the numbers. The items to be won? toys. I guess I spent too much time analyzing the trick, so I came up with my own. Of course all my classmates, the boys, were all over me. I have in another bag, toys – the little plastic army toys which belonged to my 3 brothers, that I stole, wrapped in clear plastic, with assigned number in each pack. And then on my desk top, was the 2 layered papers, with my own drawing of boxes and numbers below them.
Why was I reprimanded and my parents found me standing on top of my teacher’s table? Well, nobody won. My classmates exhausted the paper, rubbed all the boxes, and never found any number matched to my packed toys. They all went to my teacher and complained. To be clear, that was not the reason why my parents were called. That incident was a co-incident to their appearance for another incident that involved me. At age 9, I was a scam goddess. 🙂
I have too many story to tell. these are just few from my grade school. There was the buy and sell, which my father reminded me about two years ago to write a story about, and title it “balinsunsong” or a cone-shaped paper, wherein I fill up with roasted and salted peanuts, that I sell retail to my hungry classmates. candies, fruits, and anything under the sun, that I can make money with. Again; at grade school.
My parents were both educated, I would say, highly educated. My father used to work as a marketing trainer in a kitchen ware company, my mother was a rich girl, from a prominent family in her home province, studied in a very respected university, publicly known in her school’s social circle, only daughter of a business couple, she lived her life to the fullest. I practically lived a good life back in my grade school days, before they both choose to be missionaries. Anyhow, my point is, I did not know the meaning of poverty back then, but I was doing my share to have my personal income. Which I find odd. For what? I don’t know. It was just a natural, random act of entrepreneurship I guess.
They say all that happens to us, happen for a reason. And that only God knows the reasons behind. We are just here to pass through and learn from them. But what if you are not strong enough? What if you reached the point of giving up?
Everything turned upside down when both my parents became missionaries, and was sent to the poorest of the poor communities. I was not sure if they were both mature enough when they took the spiritual challenge, along with their 6 children. Yes I have 5 siblings, we are 6, I am the second to the eldest.
All in school, my eldest sister was the only one in high school, and her school was I think an hour and a half travel by bus, from where we live. Me and my 4 siblings, would walk about 5 to 6 kilometers to reach the nearest public school, every single day. There were instances of cows chasing us, rainy days where we could hear the rain roaring behind us as we all ran as fast as we could. Literally the rain was dropping behind us, big rain drops!. There were days when we all took a bath and looked so fresh in the morning, with clean feet, and we would reach the school with wet mud almost reaching our knees. To me it looked like a pair of boots made from mud. these daily experiences were just among the countless untold stories.
It was year 1980, my parent were only receiving 20.00 pesos per week, the US dollar to Philippine peso that time was only 1 USD : 7.52 PhP. In short, USD 2.65 per week is what my family would live through.
Here is where my story would begin.
My mother used to say “never under-estimate the power of being silent”.
It did not sink in to me because I was too young when I started hearing those words. Little did I know, they really are effective.
What do you do when you get angry? How do you react when you get irritated? How do you respond when you feel that your personal boundaries are being trespassed? What makes people think that you are fed up? How do you convey your standpoint in the midst of a frustrating conversation? When do you give up and why?
What is your language?
All of us are designed to have our own unique personalities; although an author named Florence Littauer in her most popular book Personality Plus – said that there are only a 4 of temperaments in this world, categorized as “choleric”, “melancholy”, “sanguine” and “phlegmatic”. I would have to agree however that each of us, has one part or two of those four, and sometimes more.
I am a very straight person; I get angry, irritated, fed up, frustrated and depressed like all of you. I am loud if I have a point. This complicated world has its own way of teaching us how to be somebody, how to be different or how to be unique.
My childhood days were not as pretty a story like some of those I heard and witnessed of. Mine was very challenging. I thought of writing about my life but one question sticks to my mind, up to this very moment; “who will read my story anyway?”. But there is something inside me, wanting to burst and explode, pushing me to scribble and begin my drawing board…the echoes never left me, no matter how I tried to escape and hide from them, the voices scream “write! write! tell them how you feel”.
Recollection of my past would be a tremendous thing to write, or record and transcribe. I have a huge volume of experiences. Biologically I am 42, but they say mentally I am 65. I want to know “why” sometimes, but this question of knowing “why?” would be a sarcasm, as if I am pretending to be in full humility while my heart is screaming pride.
Too many instances of my life have molded me to become positive, I would want to put each of them by topic but every time I start to write; the connection of each story intertwine with each other, but I have to make a point in each, so I decided to keep my temper, stay calm and tell my story one by one. Too long a writing does not interest me as a reader anyway.
I preferred to be silent when I reached the point of being really angry, frustrated or depressed. The reason for this is because I believe deeply that if I open my mouth in the midst of my burning temper, it would light a fire that no fireman could ever deal with, -well, that is just how I judge myself.
At work, I would do my best to contribute and try to influence my colleagues to be positive, effective and do things according to policies and strategies. As to my boss, I would literally draw his map, and tell him if he chooses one particular road, he will end up here – (pointing to a study -a prediction of failure). If they do not listen and continue, well guess what, I am angry; this time I will keep silent, until one day they would realize, they were wrong, and that time, I am remembered.
For my children; since I am a single mother for the longest time I could remember; I tell them things before they happen. Fortunately, my children would listen and are afraid not to. Because more often than not, what I say, really transpires. I think on this part, heaven has some contribution. 🙂 But sometimes as they begin to insist doing things extremely different from what I told them; again it makes me angry. And guess what? Yes, I keep silent. My son for one; is a witness to this. If he doesn’t hear me say a thing anymore, he would ask his uncles for help. Not to help him in any personal things, but to help him talk to mommy.
In my complicated love life; well, I hope this is interesting, yeah, after all the things are said and done; and I am neglected or misunderstood again, do not guess, I keep quiet. I am as silent as a calm cloud. My silence kills, they all say.
There will be more stories to elucidate my character. I am afraid that if I draft them all here; it will take too much time and words to name each of them. To conclude; I prefer silence because I am afraid to fight even more. To me when I had my chance to say my thoughts or debate on my standpoint; I will leave the decision to my listener. But bet my dear, as I said, I am not perfect, but most of the time I am correct. I don’t exactly know why.
Does my silence give enough time for people around me to think and learn life’s lessons as they are? Or does it mean I have to be humble and not act as a teacher or mentor for people to learn things their own way? Do they ever thank me for voicing out my mind or my heart that it made them cautious somehow? I really don’t know.
I think I am afraid to see them being hurt. It would hurt me so much to see them fail. To that I speak up.
In the end, as they all continue their journey; be hurt or fail, would I still want to care? I want to fool myself.
I dream of a perfect world maybe. This highfalutin vision of perfection drives me. But the nuisance of not being heard or listened to, folds me to silence.
Powerful or not, it will be up to them. The only difference is that at the end of the day, by just looking at them with a wink while the words “I’m sorry” is exchanging up in the air; the deep breath of realization overpowers the anger. It calms down the frustration, it heals the depression.
Spoken enough, stayed silent enough.
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We all see things in many different views. Some speak of what they observe; some don’t.
I would rather choose to articulate; not because I am right, but because I want to be heard.
My perspective of life may be far different from yours, or maybe extremely the opposite of what you believe in. I respect that. But in this strident world we all live in; where the echoes of the truth are always taken notice of as a conclusion, and its veracity is only enjoyed by few -only those who fought through; I will not prefer to be silent or still; I will speak my mind, and argue of the facts.
Because I want the truth and its benefits to be enjoyed by many.
I want to share my thoughts, experiences, skills and wisdom. Probably one day, in whatever instance or encounter you will be able to relate my writings to; I will be remembered. Only then we both will know that I am heard.
You will find my thoughts on the topics’ title in the menu. Feel free to browse; feel free to comment.