From camp to community

"Respected" and "happy" were just two of the words used by Rakesh Kumar, a tower crane operator for Aldar Laing O'Rourke (ALOR), when he was describing how he felt about life on Yas Island Worker's Community.

"Respected" and "happy" were just two of the words used by Rakesh Kumar, a tower crane operator for Aldar Laing O'Rourke (ALOR), when he was describing how he felt about life on Yas Island Worker's Community.

I spoke to a number of people, on and off record, about their thoughts on the provided living environment and how it compared to 'labour camps' they had previously lived on. The responses were identical: "This camp is better and I really enjoy being here. It's clean, tidy and spacious, there is no congestion. Everyone says "good morning", even the senior management. I'm a simple man, but people here give you so much respect. This makes me happy," said Kumar.

Workers have become part of the region's backbone and are helping drive the construction boom. But many of them still eat, sleep and live in dirty and lifeless 'camp' conditions and it has been well noted that some developer's attitudes towards the welfare and well being of their 'cheap workforce' is blasé.

While I commend the governments that have addressed the issue and introduced minimum standards, Yas Island Worker's Community is proof that more can be done. ALOR has embarked on a change in mentality towards its workforce and the shift from camp to community is a positive step.

The Community is run and maintained by Compass. ALOR employed the company to inject a simple, yet innovative concept Compass had launched, called Village Life.

The aim of Village Life is to turn camps into communities by adding additional services like recreation, internet access and culturally themed events. Street signs have also been installed in Yas Island Worker's Community to give the site a more community based feel.

Currently, there are 6,000 men living within the community and this figure is set to increase to 16,000 by June this year. Recreational events are organised and help keep spirits high, while a monthly sports day encourages people to interact, get fit and enjoy some healthy competition.

Workers are often miles away from home, paid low wages, work long and hard days and live in conditions most of us could only stomach for a couple of days. But on Yas Island, the quality of life has improved, people are more productive and the relationship between them and ALOR has become healthier. ALOR's commitment to its workforce shows just how easy it is to make a difference to these 'labour camps', without much expense.

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