Staff of Systems Engineering and Emirates Space Erectors, whose Indian owner has allegedly fled the country leaving behind a trail of debt, say they feel cheated as they are left at the mercy of social workers and benevolent organisations to feed their families.
Deep in debt, an employee of Systems Engineering said the thought of suicide did cross his mind a day after he heard the news that his company was closed down.
“The thought of suicide did cross my mind,” said the 38-year-old Indian supervisor, who has a bank loan of almost Dh100,000.
The father of two and the only earning member of the family, said he is deep in debt and it is mounting every month since payments stopped six months ago.
“I took a loan from Standard Chartered about 10 months ago. I had been paying them regularly, but since the salaries stopped coming I started delaying the payments. Unable to bear the call from banks I borrowed more money from money lenders at 10-12 per cent interest a month. For the last few months I was sending money to my family in India, again by borrowing from lenders,” he said with tears and fear in his eyes.
“Now I have to repay both the banks and the money lenders and I do not have a penny. It is a really stressful situation,” he said.
According to him another colleague of his is in an even worst situation.
“Having borrowed almost Rs2.5million from an Indian bank, he is left with hardly any options,” he added.
Apart from these two men, most other white-collared employees with loans from banks in the UAE have already fled the country. “Everyone from the accounts department left just two days after DeSouza left the country. The PROs followed next. Many of them had borrowed hefty amounts as loan from various banks in the UAE,” he added.
“But I do not want to be a coward. I will live and repay my dues. I am trying to get another job and have already attended interviews in a couple of companies,” said the man from Kerala who has been working as a steel structure fabrication supervisor for the last 14 years.
Benefactors help stranded workers with food, tickets and even jobs
Meanwhile, the workers of the defunct fabrication company say benefactors have come forward to help them with food and odd jobs. With no work and no money to buy food the workers were glad to see some benefactors coming forward with food supplies for the day.
While some benefactors have come forward offering them food, an owner of another construction firm has said he could provide some of the workers with alternate jobs.
The Hamriya Free Zone is meanwhile buying tickets for the 75 odd workers whose visas were issued by the Free Zone.
A restaurant owner in Hamriya has also offered to help the workers with a meal a day, for those living in the Free Zone.
Meanwhile, workers have said that officials should collect the remaining payment for the work they had done during the last three months from various contractors in the UAE.
“We were not sitting idle during the last six months. We have been working every single day. Payments are usually made to the client only after two months. Since our owner has disappeared, somebody should come forward and collect the money from these companies and pay us our dues,” said Umar Ali from Bangladesh.
While many restaurants and grocery stores has stopped supplying them food and other items on credit, one restaurant owner has offered some help. “He has been regularly supplying us food. Although we owe him almost Dh65,000 in total, he has still agreed to provide us with a meal a day. These are small restaurants and what he has offered is a really great help,” said Parameshwaran M.
EARLIER STORY: Businessman flees UAE leaving staff, creditors in the lurch
An Indian who owns a group of engineering companies has fled the UAE leaving hundreds of its employees with unpaid dues.
Joseph L DeSouza from Goa in India is the owner of System Engineering and Emirates Space Erectors, both LLC companies that also had registered offices in the Hamriya Free Zone.
The company is currently working on the Adnoc Headquarters, ICQH projects in Abu Dhabi and several others across the UAE.
Among the other major projects the company has worked include the Automative Park in Dubai Festival City, the Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, Damac Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina, Yas Hotel in Yas Island and Al Muneera at Al Raha Beach Beach Development in Abu Dhabi.
The company’s website http://www.systemsdubai.com is still active.
While workers in the company have not been paid for over five months, many traders said they have not been paid for supplies worth several millions.
The accounts staff last weekend followed the owner and left the country after selling all the office furniture.
Many traders who had supplied materials to DeSouza were seen waiting in front of the company’s office in Al Quoz Industrial Area No 3 last evening. “I have supplied materials worth more than Dh800,000 and collected post-dated cheques,” said one of the representatives of a Dubai-based glass fabricating company.
The traders were seen discussing details with the company’s local sponsor.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other traders who are still not aware of the incident. His total dues to the market might run more than Dh30-40million. The companies have been operating here for about 14 years and traders always operated with trust,” said another supplier.
The local sponsor last evening told 'Emirates24|7' that he had called DeSouza in India and he had confirmed that he would never ever return to the UAE.
GeVarghese from Kollam in Kerala, who has been working in the company for almost 13 years, said they were still shocked with the developments. “All of us trusted the owner. On many occasions in the past, we were not paid for months together but he always ensured and cleared our dues when payments were received. Therefore, none of us had raised any complaints with the Labour Department despite not being paid for five months,” he said.
Most of the workers have been asked to leave their accommodation by the local sponsor and say they have nowhere else to go. “We have no money, no food to eat and now where will we go now,” wondered Madan Kumar Tamang from Nepal.
A total of 500-odd workers apart from 250 office staff were employed in the four different companies that were owned by DeSouza.
According to the local sponsor, a complaint has been lodged at the Labour office in Dubai.
Meanwhile, according to some workers, DeSouza has built a palatial house in Bangalore City in Karnataka and settled there. “The latest news we are hearing is that he has built a house in big house in Bangalore City in Karnataka state in India and is living there. We are not going to leave him alone. I am just waiting to reach India,” said one worker.
Traders who have supplied construction materials worth millions said they are in discussion with the company’s local sponsor in an effort to retrieve some dues. “Some of us are indeed planning to go to India. We will try and explore the possibilities to getting hold of him there,” said one trader.