Street cleaners strike, streets left unclean
Sana’a, Jan. 7 – More than 2,000 street cleaners went on a strike from last Tuesday to Thursday to demand their rights.
For more than sixteen years, Hanash Sa’eed, 30, has worked as a street cleaner without receiving a paid vacation or other employees’ rights. The more than 4,000 street clearness in Sana’a are paid just YR 25,000 or USD 110 a month.
According to Ali Al-Maghribi, a secretary for the General Cleaning Administration (GCA), street cleaners were promised that they would be officially hired and receive paid vacations and benefits like medical insurance after the strike.
Al-Maghribi said that Minister of Defense Mohammad Naser Ahmad urgently gave orders to the Logistics Department to provide the street cleaners with 2,000 sacks of sugar, 2,000 bottles of oil and 2,000 boxes of canned beans.
Past disappointments and new promises
In a GCA meeting held on Wednesday, it was decided that street cleaners will receive medical insurance and paid vacations after one months’ time.
The street cleaners have, however, complained that they have received promises before and that this time around they remain unsure whether such promises will be followed by action. “The most important thing is that they fulfill their promise this time. We only want our rights,” said Sa’eed, who has a wife and a child who also work as street cleaners. Jabri Al-Jamal, a street cleaner, said that this is the sixth such promise they have received. “Their promises are like antibiotics that keep us silent for a while,” said Al-Jamal, 34.
He said that although he owns a house - where he, his wife and six children live - the money he receives as a monthly salary is not enough to live on. Sana’a’s street cleaners also went on strike two years ago to demand that they be officially employed and receive medical insurance and paid vacations.
In general, street cleaners work three shifts. The first is from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m., the second from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the third from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Each street cleaner daily works two out of three shifts in areas specified by the municipality’s cleaning administration. In addition to the street cleaners, the cleaning administration also has possesses vehicles to collect garbage from houses and shops. There are 17 districts in Sana’a. Each district has two supervisors who report on their area’s cleanliness and who also monitor whether the cleaners are performing their duties or not, Abdulhakim Saber, a worker at the administration, told the Yemen Times earlier.
An environmental problem
At least 10,000 tons of garbage is collected in Sana’a each day, according to Abbass Al-Sharafi, head of Operational Unit at the administration.
Al-Sharafi said the garbage is disposed of using an old method in which it is buried in the soil and covered with sand, leaving behind “huge mountains of garbage that aren’t recycled at all.”
In Aden, however, people have become concerned about the environmental consequences of burning garbage in residential areas.
Garbage has also piled up in Aden’s streets after the city’s street cleaners went on strike for the last two days. Shop owners in Aden’s Crater District gathered all the garbage in their area and burned it near the Al-Za’faran Market.
“This forced us to close all our windows on Friday as the smoke was everywhere and did not allow us to breathe clean air,” said Salem Mohammad, a resident of Aden.
Mohammed called on officials to respond to the street cleaners’ demands and to give them their legal rights. Since last Thursday, garbage has been burned in other areas in Aden, leaving people afraid of falling ill following exposure to the suffocating smoke.
Qaed Rashed, head of Aden’s Cleaning Fund, called on the Minister of Finance to officially increase the street cleaner’s salaries.