Monday, October 22, 2012

Getting paid on time in Oman... the tale of the Al Athaiba Lemon Thief

Now I know I haven't posted anything in a long time but this post by one of the OPNO girls has been eating up my inbox and I thought it was an important enough subject for me to take a few minutes to upload it:

I remember when I first moved to Oman I worked for a small branch of a bigger company and my promised salary was serriously late. This is not at all common in my home country of Canada where, if my salary were late more than 5 days time, I and everyone else, would probably quit coming to work, and refuse to do so until we were prompotly paid all owed (and maybe a little extra for the inconvenience) with a guarantee that it would never happen again.

I know I am not the only one that this has ever happened to in Muscat. It doesn't just effect poor Indian and Pakistani migrant workers either. And what happened to me was not at all serrious compared to the months and months and months some workers stay trapped in their jobs as they are unable to afford food and clothes let alone a ticket back to their home countries when their emloyers don't pay up.

But I will tell you what happened to me anyways.

I was promised in a few weeks my salary would come when I complained. I protested of course, that I had just enough left over from last month to pay my rent. When asked how much my rent was, my employer told me to go get a cheaper place. I was like, excuse me? This is cheaper than I EVER was forced to live because I was nice enough to agree to work for your crummy office even though I had better offers and no way am I going to be a slave or go ghetto just to stay and work for you.

I waited for my salary while I saw my Omani boss buying a new car off a Khuwair car lot, and some of his Indian workers hadn't been paid for months. I felt shy to complain when they accepted the situation, worse off than I, but I had noooooo money whatsoever and no food, so I remember one night I snuck out of my one room bachelor over a nice Omani villa (owned by the nicest Omani family ever in Al Athaiba) and was picking the lemons and dates off the ground that fell off the trees from peoples gardens and stuffing them into my mouth, I was that hungry.

The nephew of my boss, a much more compassionate person, and his wife, I guess happened to have spied me munching on their dates and lemons like a thief in the night, because they started cooking me breakfast and lunch every day and leaving it at the company, Allah bless them right. They were, apparently, my neighbors.

Now, these days, much better off, I remember having "stolen" those lemons (the dates weren't really an issue as they were on the ground) thinking at the time in hunger that since they were for the driveway probably no one was going to eat them, but as a Muslim, I think, what if they were, and I stole, I should totally go back and give the families whose lemons I pilfered a bag of lemons ect... But then, you know, that would be TOTALLY embrassing because, most likely they'd be like, ahhhh miskeen {poor} Canadian girl, and invite me inside for coffee and fruit and try to give me stuff. That's Omanis as I mainly know them.

But then there's Omanis like the kind that maybe pay me but forget everybody else. Because a girl like me is easy to feel sorry for. I mean, I look totally helpless and desperate trying to scrape dates off the road in the middle of night right, lol, when I live in the same neighborhood as your family, and they know what kind of life I gave up to come here to live in a Muslim country and earn a halal {not interest or any profit earned from sources Muslims aren't allowed to use ect) income for myself. But what about that Indian guy here? He's harder to feel sorry for, for some people I guess, forgetting he's got a wife and kids to feed back in India, and who knows what'll happen to his wife worse than what happened to me if her husband never gets paid and can't afford to ever come home. And their families don't live next door to him.

So to continue the tale, while everyone who worked for the company (Indian) did not recieve their salaries a week later as promised, I did (and a couple of other Omanis). And then most of us quit to find better jobs. One really can't afford to quit without getting aat least one salary, that's the problem.

I had never forgotten the situation until I learned about a group of men in our village who haven't been paid for months now, who are starving and can't buy basic things like clothes, blankets, soap ect. . I will tyr to collect some money or items like rice, cooking oil, soap, new blankets, ect... for them. But at the same time, I can't understand how the owner of the company who owes them their salary can live in a good way, with an expensive villa and luxury items knowing that men are starving to death while he does that.


The Linoleum Surfer said...

This is the disease of the Gulf: strength of pride with weakness of morality.

Andrew Brown said...

Great post about something that has ALWAYS bothered me. Imagine these folks taking off for exotic locations during Eid holidays and having employees that they sponsor who haven't been paid for months (like you said). And as you mentioned, it is not only the lower income workers that have to wait around for salaries. This is an extremely sinful practice of not paying ones employees. "Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin." (Deuteronomy 24:15) Good to see the blog up and running again. Keep up the fantastic blogging. Hope all the OPNO ladies and your families have a blessed Eid! :-)

New Wife said...

astaghfirullah... its so terrible! Muslims are even supposed to pay a person for their labor before their sweat as dried (i.e. immediately!!).

so sad that this is happening to people in a muslim country... :-(

Anonymous said...

This is really sad, I remember visiting Dubai about year or two ago, I was shopping at the Dubai Mall and made simple conversation with a philipeno woman who works there. She mention her employer has not paid her for few months due to credit crunch. I was shocked to hear it, cuz here in states if someone doesn't get paid lawsuits will be coming at the employer right to left. Your post makes me really appreciate what I have and a good reminder for us not to take anything in life for granted.

Anonymous said...

Wow.. That's like stealing (on the employers part..) astagfirullah.. I guess they forget the Hadith about paying a worker before his sweat dries.. Subhanallah!! It's maddening.. Thanks for talking about it..

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. I agree with all said.

TLS: nicely summing the problem up with fewer words than you're usually known for;p

Anonymous said...

Yip it happens all too often,
mix egotistical Omani CEO who sucks his own profits out of the company before anyone else gets paid and you have to eat lemons off of the street. Smart move is to quit or move asap.......... however timing as you describe is critical - i am facing that exact problem in Oman now and am thinking that enough is enough - but where to go next???