I was a bit surprised to learn that there will be twelve workers camping out on the property during the construction phase. I thought it would be more like a maximum of eight workers. And perhaps because it was their first day sleeping at the property, there was a total of maybe twenty people, including mothers and children.
It was difficult to contemplate how the workers and their families would fit into the makeshift structure. Perhaps some would return to their village before nightfall.
Photo above: tarp-covered encampment at the rear of the property.
It is easy to look at the worker’s makeshift setup and see an egregious lack of proper hygiene and an almost complete lack of “civilized” life (they did run an electric line from our friendly neighbor). Yet when looking at the workers and their families, I sense they are not unhappy.
Perhaps it’s because they know that for the next nine to twelve months they’ll be employed. When faced with the very real possibility that there won’t be enough food to eat, this construction site signals real security for the foreseeable future.
It is tempting to place a Western perspective on this relationship between employer and worker. That it is somehow exploitive. The workers are employed by my builder (not me), and they are following standard practices for this region. Could it done differently? I’m not sure. What would I change? If the workers wanted standard “kost” rooms (typical low-cost, no-frills rooms for locals) then they’d have to commute each day. They would not have a kitchen because most kost rooms are just rooms with a toilet. It’s possible to put a single cooker in a room but then the workers couldn’t eat communally. In fact, the rooms themselves would isolate the members of the group from each other.
When one considers how important village life is to the Balinese, the idea of providing separate rooms in different locations or giving the workers extra pay to make such a thing possible, would possibly be seen as a punishment.
On an island with over five million tourists annually, putting twelve workers side by side for a relatively low cost is next to impossible. There’s no public camping sites either.
Another possibility is I give them more luxurious things such as blow-up mattresses etc.. But keep in mind that the workers rely on their scooters to go from job to job, and loading the workers up with “stuff” may not, in the end, be helpful.
Visiting the site every day, Shelly and I see workers going about their business, getting the job done, without any complaining. We do contribute food, laundry detergent, and other things on an irregular basis. We don’t want to be seen as walking gift machines. Just people who all have a common interest: to get the job done.