The lack of transparency in the department was apparent with the legal researchers — officials who help find solutions to labour disputes — withholding information about employees' rights, and instead suggesting measures that force labourers to succcumb to the employers' will, a source in the ministry said.
Dr Al Kaabi had proposed a couple of days ago to reduce the administrative role of the Labour Relations Department, and that it be replaced with what he termed as ‘Labour Reconciliatory Committees’. The criticism has not gone down well with the legal researchers, with one of them describing the minister's observations as “very disappointing” due to the circumstances and conditions of work since “we are not paid allowances or compensation for the nature of our work”.
“Though the legal researchers (those tasked with finding solutions to labour disputes) do not have a binding authority on the parties to the dispute — the employees and the employers — they could influence matters by demonstrating the case to the parties concerned, or through the proposals they make which are not necessarily fair, and in which they may bias the employers to seek their affection or gain benefits from them,” the source said. Labour Minister Dr Ali Al Kaabi had proposed in statements he made two days ago to reduce the administrative role of the Labour Relations Department, and that it be replaced by what he termed as ‘labour reconciliatory committees’.
The proposed committees would be set up at the national level after cooperation and coordination with the ministry. He also proposed the setting up of customer service office with the task of receiving complaints of applicants and answering enquiries. Another proposal made by the minister was the formation of a liaison office to be run by ten competent employees of the ministry. The minister expressed his displeasure over ‘irritations’ against those submitting transactions at the ministry and said he would take necessary measures against errant employees after confirming the cases.
On the nature of work of the reconciliatory committees, the official source said panels would be assigned the job of solving the problems of workers, and at a later stage, they would be looking into the individual complaints and issues. The source said the decisions of the reconciliatory panels would be binding, unlike those of legal researchers which were mere recommendations. The legal researchers refer the complaints referred to them to the labour courts within two weeks time after no solution is possible between the parties concerned.
The statements made by the minister irked some legal researchers, who did not hide their feelings and raised questions on whether he meant the section of the Labour Relations Department in Dubai only or in Abu Dhabi too. A legal researcher at the department described the statements of the minister as ‘very disappointing’. The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the remarks of the minister were very disappointing due to the circumstances and conditions of work as “we are not paid allowances or compensation for their nature of work, though the Civil Service Law has asserted this right of the legal researchers and labour inspectors at the ministry.
The problem, he said, was that the Ministry of Finance did not approve the payment of compensations for budgetary reasons. The talk about favouritism, said the researcher, is not proper as the researcher has no binding authority to force any party in a labour dispute to take this or that solution. The work of the researcher is confined to reconciliation and solving the problems amicably. He spoke about the difficulties researchers come across, especially lack of interpreters, who can help make Asian workers understand the law. Some researchers have developed their own language skills, and learnt Urdu without attending any course. Other legal researchers declined to comment on the minister's statements, but they did not hide their disappointment.
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