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Top priority for workers’ welfare: Labour Ministry

By a staff reporter / 26 March 2007

DUBAI — A statement released by Ministry of Labour (MoL) yesterday said a series of measures were being taken to improve labourers’ living condition and to ensure that their rights are protected. The statement was issued following the Human Rights Watch report released yesterday which was critical of the UAE’s labour policies.

About 107 labour accommodation facilities ordered to be closed unless they meet the standards stipulated by UAE law. Some of these facilities have already been closed.

A large-scale public information programme under way to ensure that employers and employees are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities and also of the recourse available through the authorities in case of dispute

A new labour court set up in Dubai by MoL to handle cases locally and ensure speedy and effective resolution of disputes

About 87 cases have been heard and 47 have already been ruled on since the end of November 2006.

A labour relations office will be established at the court in Dubai to provide assistance to labourers and ensure employers adhere to the court decisions.

If employers do not comply, their records will be blocked at the Ministry

The Ministry will also have the power to pay workers’ entitlements from the employer’s bank deposits, following the court’s approval.

The Ministry of Labour will increase the number of inspectors dedicated to labour inspections to 2,000 by the end of 2007

Encouraging landlords to exceed the statutory requirements for labour accommodation through an industry award scheme sponsored by government

A new labour agreement signed this year with the governments of India and Pakistan to prevent possible exploitation of labourers by recruiting agents and middle men in the source countries. The agreement will be extended to other countries which traditionally have supplied labour to UAE including Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Philippines

In 2006 the Dubai Police were responsible for enforcing the payment of $52 million of unpaid wages following complaints by workers which were upheld and pursued by the law.

The Dubai Civil Defence Department has announced that it will suspend the licence applications and renewals of all companies that fail to obtain safety compliance certificates for all labour accommodations

The UAE Government has announced the prohibition of labour accommodation within industrial, workshop and warehouse premises.

Other key facts relating to the progressing changes in legislation and measures to improve the welfare of workers include:

Guest workers

Over 5,000 institutions have been instructed to present audited reports to prove the regular payment of wages every three months

About 1,300 institutions have had transactions or request for work permits suspended by the government  for not paying wages on time

About 350 institutions found (through regular inspection visits) guilty of not paying wages on time have been suspended

About 1,350 workers who have not been paid for two months or over have transferred their sponsorship to other companies without the approval of their current sponsor, as now allowed by the government

Sponsorship transfer

The government has worked diligently to remove all obstacles and difficulties that hinder guest workers’ freedom to transfer sponsorship and work with a different employer

The government has decided to permit all guest worker segments to transfer their sponsorship (according to certain rules and procedures). This was previously limited to certain segments only.

The number of transferred sponsorships in 2006 was 35,000 — 85 per cent more than 2005

Labour disputes

The government has been meticulous in solving labour disputes. The number of labour complaints in 2006 was 27,000 out of which only 4,000 (15 per cent) were moved to the labour courts

Together with the labour courts, the government  has taken the initiative to establish a representative office located within the courts which acts as a liaison and facilitates the process of solving disputes

The government has established an electronic connection with the labour courts which facilitates information sharing and streamlines the labour dispute process

Work environment

Working during midday hours — The Government of UAE prohibits employers from making workers perform any outdoor duties during midday hours. This was announced with a widespread awareness campaign that spanned two months

Companies that violate this face a fine of up to Dh30,000, a demotion in the “grade” of the institution to the minimum level and a three-month suspension

The government has implemented more than 1,950 field inspections to ensure that this law is applied. 816 institutions were found in violation and more than Dh9,000,000 ($2.45 million) in fines were issued

Labour camps — The government  has stressed the importance of providing adequate accommodations for labour workers

No work permit that requires more than 25 workers is issued unless proof of proper accommodation for these workers is given

The number of rejected applications for work permits on the basis of inadequate accommodation was 35

The government  also worked with the relevant department to establish model labour villages

Inspection

The government has undertaken over 83,000 inspection visits to ensure that employers apply the relevant laws and worker rights are not violated

These visits resulted in the suspension of over 6,000 institutions for violation or non-adherence to the laws

In accordance to the demands of international labour standards, new process for inspection has been put into place.

This includes a detailed list of all requirements and procedures for inspection.

 
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