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‘Unruly’ workers face deportation

By Riyasbabu and Mary Nammour / 12 March 2007

DUBAI — Some 250 workers of a leading local contracting company, who despite efforts to resolve their demand for a pay hike turned violent yesterday, were arrested by the police and now face deportation, according to sources.

A top Ministry of Labour (MoL) official said the arrested workers have been charged with instigating violence, which was totally “unacceptable” to the authorities.

The agitating workers were part of a larger group of 8,000 protesting since Saturday, demanding a pay hike and a return air ticket for their annual vacation.

Yesterday morning, they marched out from their labour camps in Al Quoz and Sonapur, shouted slogans, damaged some company buses, smashed the doors of their labour camps and hurled stones at their company manager.

The Riot Control Wing of Dubai Police, who were alerted immediately, MoL officials and members of the Permanent Committee for Labour Affairs (PCLA) rushed to the spot and succeded in bringing the situation under control.

Barring the violent instigators, the remaining workers were persuaded to resume work soon, especially after the company offered a Dh60 increase in their monthly salary.

Humeid bin Deemas, MoL’s Assistant Under-Secretary, told Khaleej Times all those arrested will be deported soon.

“Their labour cards will be cancelled and a permanent work ban will be imposed on them. These workers will also not get any end of service benefits,” he said categorically.

The ministry, he added, “has a clear policy regarding labourers who stop work arbitrarily and indulge in any violent protest. This is intolerable, as it threatens the stability of the local labour market.”

Bin Deemas assured, MoL will issue free work permits to the company to compensate for those cancelled following yesterday’s arrest of its workers. However, some workers are still complaining that the Dh2 increase per day in their salaries is not sufficient to meet their basic requirements.

“We are being paid only Dh 550-Dh600. The Dh60 increase will not really compensate the spiralling cost of living. Also, the company gives us leave just once in two years — up to six months and without any air fare. Now they have agreed to give us return air tickets but the maximum leave period has been reduced to 60 days,” said a worker.

The labourers, it may be recalled, have been demanding a minimum raise of Dh200 in their basic salary plus Dh150 as food allowance.  Abdullah Bin Suloom, Director, MoL’s Inspection Department and PCLA member,  said company’s officials maintained all the entitlements of their labourers were being respected and their salaries paid on time. The company, he added, is abiding by all its contractual obligations and also providing hygienic accommodation and healthcare facilities.

 
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