Mushrif Mall car washers fear effects of chemicals on their skin

The workers, who have not been given gloves, showed how their hands are peeling as a result of the chemicals used to clean vehicles.

Muhammad Waqas Jamshaid thinks wearing gloves would help to protect his skin from the chemicals used to clean vehicles. Ravindranath K / The National
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ABU DHABI // While some washers worry about the summer heat, of greater concern to workers at Mushrif Mall is the effect chemicals they use have on their health.

“I don’t have gloves, so I have to do it all bare-handed,” said Muhammad Waqas Jamshaid, who has been in the job for a month but already has visible signs of deterioration on his hands.

Continually washing cars using chemicals with bare hands has led to the skin on the Pakistani’s hands to peel.

“Under such severe weather conditions, working 12 hours a day is a challenging task but I do this to save some money for my family,” said the 21-year-old, who earns a Dh1,000 a month.

“This month’s heat is bearable but the most testing phase is from next month when temperatures soar to 50˚C.”

In addition to health concerns, Muhammad has realised that meeting his monthly target is tough. “I have to earn Dh5,500 a month [in takings from customers] by hook or by crook to pay to the owner to claim a full month’s salary, otherwise the company would cut my monthly pay.”

At Mushrif Mall, washers charge Dh20 for saloon cars and Dh25 for 4x4s, meaning he has to wash about 220 vehicle a month.

The workers are poorly equipped, with just a bucket of water, cloths and cleaning fluids. In comparison, Al Wahda Mall washers have mobile washing tools.

Muhammad said he paid 235,000 Pakistani rupees (Dh8,500) to an agent at home to get him a UAE visa.

On weekdays, he said he washed five to six cars, increasing to up to 12 on weekends.

The 40 or so washers at Mushrif Mall work for Esteem Middle East Car Wash. The company has a system of washing cars in turn so that everyone gets equal work.

“We don’t get any commission. We just have tough targets to achieve, otherwise we face salary deductions,” said one washer.

Muhammad said tips were important but the amounts he received varied, from up to Dh30 a day on weekends to nothing.

Bangladeshi washer Habibullah Mojibul Hork said: “Generally we complete our targets. The company doesn’t deduct the salary if only Dh200 to Dh300 is less from total monthly target.”


For more on the UAE’s car washers:

The National speaks to the unsung heroes who wash the nation’s cars at malls up and down the country.

Special report: Stories from the UAE's car washers

Helping family at home gives Abu Dhabi Mall car washers drive to earn more

Finding customers is biggest concern among Ibn Battuta Mall car washers

Heat and humidity means task takes double the time, UAE car washers say