South Asian workers down tools at Muscat Airport

Rare protest to demand improved safety after worker dies in accident

Labour conditions at the Muscat Airport project have come under scrutiny after a labour protest following the death of a worker.
Labour conditions at the Muscat Airport project have come under scrutiny after a labour protest following the death of a worker.

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Thousands of South Asian labourers working on the expansion of Muscat airport downed tools on Tuesday in a rare strike to demand better safety conditions after a worker died in an accident, a company official and workers told The Economic Times.

The work stoppage is likely to cause further delay to the $1.8bn contract to build a new terminal, which the Omani government awarded in 2010 to BEB, a JV comprising US's Bechtel and Turkey's Enka.

An Indian worker died late on Monday when he was run over by a bus belonging to the contractor, workers and a BEB official told Reuters.

"We will not go to work today unless our company assures us that they will revise safety standards in our workplace," Mohan Raman, a worker with BEB, told Reuters.

"We have 10,000 workers and most of them are on strike," said the BEB official, who asked not to be named. "We are improving safety standards to make sure such accidents will never happen again."

A BEB statement released did not refer to a strike, but said the company had "suspended work today [Tuesday] in respect for the deceased employee which is customary in the Indian culture."

The statement added: "An investigation is being carried out by the company and the local authorities". Work was expected to resume today.

The extension of Muscat airport was originally scheduled to be completed by end of this year, but officials said last year it was expected to take until the end of 2014 due to soft ground in the middle of the new runway.

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