2,000 Middle East workers left in limbo

Workers at Omani branch of Hastie Group stage a sit-in as discontent grows over administration

Workers at the Omani branch of the Hastie Group Limited have staged a sit in at their offices in the Sultanate while the crisis surrounding the Australian engineering firm intensifies as it goes into administration.

Bill Wild, the Group CEO, stepped down from his role with the firm on Friday, leaving its 7,000 employees across the world unsure of what will happen next. Australian news sources have claimed that the builder’s workforce may have lost all their entitlements in the aftermath of the collapse.

“We heard that the company’s Middle East operations are in trouble. We have not got last month’s salary, so we’ve staged a sit-in after settlement talks failed,” an Omani company worker told the Times of Oman.

“We will approach the Labour Department on Monday. We were offered jobs from the main contracting company, but most of us came from Dubai and we don’t want to continue. We are ready to return if we get our due salary and tickets to fly back home,” the worker added.

Up to 2,000 employees in the Middle East could be affected, a report in the UAE based The National newspaper said.

Hastie has worked on projects worth billions of dollars throughout the GCC, including the new campus of Zayed University and Dalma Mall, both in Abu Dhabi. It is believed that problem contracts in the region were one of the factors behind the demise of the company.

Administrators from PPB Advisory have been appointed to run the company and more than 40 of its units.

“Our priority is to help facilitate the re-employment of the workers and as such, we continue to hold discussions with main contractors, developers and builders,” PPB said in response to questions from Abu Dhabi newspaper.

On May 29, 2012, Hastie released a statement informing shareholders that the group was under administration and that the transfers of shares of the publically listed company were currently suspended.

It added that trading would only occur with the consent of the administrators or the courts.

In its 2011 shareholder review, the Australian firm said that the collection of cash in the Middle East had been a major challenge.

UAE employees told media that they had received a memo last week, which informed them that they had been stood down without pay, effective immediately, because Hastie had ‘insufficient funds to meet its payroll and operational costs”.

Hastie had also been involved in a legal row with Dutco Balfour Beatty in Dubai over the construction of the Novotel hotel in Al Barsha.

Dutco Balfour Beatty had earlier ended its contract with the Australian firm and had called for payment of bank guarantees worth $6.3m. Hastie was in the midst of applying for an injunction when the collapse came.

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