SALEM YOUSEF AL QASEER tells Oxford Business Group synergy between national and sub-national governments is responsible for the success of their COVID-19 interventions.
OXFORD BUSINESS GROUP: What steps and measures has the LSDA put in place to limit the spread of Covid-19 and mitigate its social and economic impact?
SALEM YOUSEF AL QASEER: The LSDA in Sharjah took immediate action to enhance health and safety procedures for workers, companies and employers in the industrial and commercial areas of the emirate, including Sharjah City, and the eastern and central regions. As of early November 2020 the authority had reached out to more than 300,000 workers from roughly 6000 companies. It aims to reach all workers and employers in the emirate via its COVID-19 awareness and prevention campaigns, and by extending its latest prevention measures to them.
The LSDA’s ongoing awareness campaigns for workers and employers cover all print, digital and social media platforms in several languages. These include, among others, awareness and prevention guidelines sent via SMS to the phones of workers and employers in various languages; leaflets and digital awareness videos in several languages – namely Arabic, English, Urdu, Pashto, Filipino and Bengali – to companies employing workers in the emirate; and a return-to-work guide for companies and employees, available in Arabic, English and Urdu.
OBG: To what extent has collaboration and cooperation with Sharjah and UAE government entities helped enhance the COVID-19 crisis management?
SYAQ: Our COVID-19 campaigns would not have been successful without the cooperation of the relevant authorities in Sharjah in particular, and the UAE in general. The LSDA is a member of the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, as well as multiple subcommittees, including the Labour Accommodation Inspection Committee and the Business Continuity Team.
The campaigns have had a significant impact because of the full cooperation of the concerned authorities, especially the Ministry of Health and Prevention, the Sharjah Prevention and Safety Authority, the Sharjah Police, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, Bee’ah and the other authorities fighting the spread of COVID-19.
OBG: How important is training and educating workers for Sharjah’s post-pandemic economic recovery?
SYAQ: Providing training and education for workers, especially the basic skills of reading, writing, mathematics and computer sciences, to improve their job opportunities and ensure their active and productive participation in economic development is an essential step to accelerate the emirate’s recovery in a post-pandemic scenario. The LSDA has been coordinating many educational courses for workers, including English lessons in cooperation with the American University of Sharjah, and we are planning to conduct more courses to give workers the opportunity to acquire the skills they need.
These cultural activities, which aim to integrate workers into the busy cultural life of Sharjah, are part of a strategic plan to improve the work environment in the emirate and provide support to employers and workers alike. Under this plan, the authority has succeeded in integrating hundreds of workers into the cultural scene of the city – for example, by organising the attendance of hundreds of workers at educational seminars and lectures held in their native languages in the latest edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair at the Sharjah Expo Centre.
In this regard, and as part of its plan to promote the culture of reading among workers, the LSDA, in cooperation with the Culture Without Borders initiative in Sharjah, has launched a project to establish a private library in each labour housing complex. These libraries will be stocked with a variety of materials in several languages, and will be frequently replenished to ensure maximum benefit and enjoyment.
- Al Qaseer is Chairman, Labour Standards Development Authority.