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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Living out of their vehicles

Dubai - Nov.05: Spending over four hours a day in his car has become routine for Nasser Fati, 41, from Egypt. Not being able to see his family has also become normal, but is something he says he simply cannot get used to.

"I generally reach my home everyday at around 8.30pm, and by that time my three young children are asleep," he said. "I only have Friday to see them and we really miss each other. It's quite sad."

Traffic, traffic everywhere. Not only is it enraging to find yourself stranded for endless lengths of time, but it just keeps getting worse.

Residents of Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman in particular have had to revise their daily schedules, change plans and venture onto unknown roads, with the aim of finding that magic route which will reduce commuting time, to get to work, home or the children to school on time.

Motorists are being forced to go to extreme lengths to try to minimize the effect of spending hours on end in the car, with some splurging on high-end vehicles for comfort and ease. Others are opting to brave the elements on a motorbike, to substantially cut down on travel time.

The problem is affecting not only those behind the wheel, but also younger UAE residents who say that they simply do not entertain the thought of going to some areas.

Family lives and relationships are also being impacted, and with many being forced to live farther away due to the other perpetual Dubai gripe - rent - hours in the car is a daily reality for thousands.


Tenants demand alternative housing

Dubai - Nov. 05: Tenants facing eviction from their Rashid colony blocks in Al Ghusais are demanding alternative housing from the Dubai Development Board.

They earlier demanded an extension until the end of the current academic year. They were given the eviction notice by the Board on October 10. The last day for vacating blocks 1, 2 and 3 was October 31. The first eviction notice was issued last May 1.

The tenants held a meeting yesterday and they unanimously decided to submit a written petition to the Board that carries the signature of all 384 residents.

A few residents said they were not told by the Board of the demolition plan when they went to renew their contract or rent a flat. According to Board officials who spoke to Gulf News earlier the colony is more than 33 years old. According to the eviction notice the demolition was scheduled to begin on November 1.

"I disagree with the reasons provided by the Board to demolish the blocks. It was the Board which should have looked into the hygiene and sanitation problems. Again, if the Board had come across people subletting and turning the blocks into a labour accommodation they should have rectified the problem," said a tenant.

Another tenant said: "I rented a flat in one of the three blocks in April. Then all of a sudden I am faced with an eviction notice in May 1. If the Board was planning to demolish the colony they should have informed me about it."


Skycom closing down

Dubai - Nov. 05:The majority of workers at a call centre who went on strike over poor working conditions have lost their jobs. More than 60 employees of Skycom Communications, based at Dubai Internet City, were sacked last week and told not to report to work the next day. The employees, who walked out in protest four months ago, are now demanding the company pay them an extra month’s salary for not giving them prior notice.

"On Wednesday evening when we were about to collect our salaries, we were asked to assemble in a room. They said the company was scaling down its operations in Dubai and henceforth we were all terminated," said one employee. Another added: "They have still not paid our salaries and are refusing to pay us an extra month’s salary. We have no money left.” Several Skycom employees had stopped work in July demanding the company return their passports and provide better conditions such as a reduction in working hours.

The protest was the first of its kind in Dubai by white-collar workers and ended after the company agreed to return the employees’ passports. Some employees were also sacked.  A spokesperson for the company yesterday told 7DAYS that the employees’ protest and consequent media reports had destroyed the company’s image resulting in heavy losses. "We did not manage to recover after the strike. Our business here never improved and unfortunately we are forced to close our operations. We have now outsourced our call centres to other countries.”


Restricted timings for driver training welcomed 

Dubai - Nov.05: Driving schools and residents have welcomed the Roads and Transport Authority's decision to alter lesson timings for student drivers.

While driving schools feared losses, residents said it will ease the traffic congestion.

Driving schools have been barred from conducting training during morning and evening rush hours.

Training timings have been slashed by two-and-a-half hours. Schools will be able to conduct training seven hours a day instead of the earlier nine-and-a-half hours.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has issued a circular to driving schools in Dubai ordering them to conduct training only from 9am to 2pm and from 3 to 5pm with immediate effect.

Earlier, driving schools were allowed to provide training from 8am to 1.30pm and from 3pm to 7pm.

"The RTA initiative is aimed at reducing traffic congestion during rush hours and is another step in continuing efforts to improve the situation in Dubai," said an RTA official.

According to the RTA statistics, there are 26 driving schools with more than 3,000 vehicles training more than 10,000 students every day in the city.

Amer Ahmad Belhasa, Managing Director, Emirates Driving Institute said: "It is a well considered move. We welcome the RTA's initiative to restrict on-road training during rush hours because Dubai's road system is being taxed to the limit by the sheer volume of vehicular traffic.

" Taking training vehicles off the road during rush hour could help ease the pressure." However, he said the reduced timings will force driving schools to reschedule their training sessions.

"Fewer working hours will mean some students have to wait a bit longer before commencing on-road training." A spokesperson for the Belhasa Driving Centre said that people should not be barred from obtaining driving licences as it is their right.

"Such rules should be introduced once the alternative mode of public transportation is in place," he said. Dr Jamal Shaikh, a resident, said: "Training cars cause congestion on the roads."



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