Cleaners’ union accuses local councils of corruption
The Yemeni Cleaners’ Union has accused local councils across the country of being corrupt and of attempting to make Yemen “the most unclean country in the world.” Cleaners’ union chairman Mohammed Al-Marzooqi, said “We have sent the local council for Sana’a governorate a letter saying they should bear the full responsibility for the union’s strike, which is currently taking place, everywhere in the Republic of Yemen.”
The union chairman said local councils should have resolved the cleaners’ issues, recognized them as official workers, worked to enhance their quality of life, and provided them with worker’s benefits – as opposed to putting pressure on the cleaners to work under such bad conditions.
Al-Marzooqi directly accused the local councils of corruption and manipulation, and added that they “are abusing and misusing cleaning fund money and they are not providing it to the right people, nor in full amounts. Only a few who have power, who are not involved with cleaning, receive a majority of the funds.
“Up to the present moment, the government has continued to neglect the cleaners’ demands. They will continue their strike in front of the cleaning authority building on Sixty Meters Road,” added Al-Marzooqi.
This past Friday, the cleaners performed the Friday prayer on Sixty Meters Road, and demonstrated under the slogan “We will remain on strike until our rights have been received.”
Al-Marzooqi has apologized to the public for the environmental problems which may result from the continuing strike, problems which may stem from an accumulation of garbage on city streets. He said, “They didn’t want to see this happen, and feel the government and various officials forced their hand.”
Garbage has accumulated on city streets since last Thursday.
Another source reported that government officials have been holding negotiations with representatives from the cleaners’ union with the aim of encouraging the workers to continue their work and resume collecting garbage starting today [Sunday].
The difficult life of Yemeni cleaners
Nearly 40,000 cleaners have struggled for two years with the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Their demands to be officially hired and provided with workers’ rights are backed up by national labor laws. Continued stonewalling by government authorities has forced the cleaners to conduct a number of strikes, the longest before now lasting for ten consecutive days.
Even though they are employed by the government, the cleaners don’t receive the same benefits as their counterparts in government employ. As such, they have made it clear that they feel the government treats them as a sub-class, this despite the importance of their jobs to the functioning of cities across Yemen.
It is common knowledge that cleaners don’t have contracts with the government and are not given days off during official holidays. They work year-round, even pregnant cleaners, and though their working environment involves regular exposure to germs, they are not currently provided with any form of health insurance. As many families depend on a cleaners’ salary – a salary that is often unable to make ends meet – children in such families are often forced into the labor market at an early age to supplement the insufficient cleaners’ income.