Contractors get mid day break slashed to 2 1/2 hours to cut their losses

DUBAI — Giving into the demands of the UAE Contractors Association which, in a memo addressed to the Minister of Labour, asked the authorities to reconsider the four-hour noon-break for workers in the construction field to tide over their losses, the ministry issued yesterday a ministerial order reducing the break to two-and-a-half hours from 12.30pm to 3pm. The decision is applicable on workers who work under the sun and in open spaces during the months of July and August, specifying the period of work stoppage from 12.30pm to 3pm.

By A Staff Reporter

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Published: Sat 3 Jun 2006, 10:33 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:20 PM

Minister of Labour, Dr Ali Abdullah Al Kaabi, said late last week that the ministry had received recommendations and proposals from the UAE Contractors’ Association. “We have thoroughly considered those proposals and recommendations from the contractors’ association and reached the most logical formula for implementation,” the minister said, stressing that the Labour Law No. 8 of 1980 does not ban work at night if the necessity arises, as long as companies observe the regulations concerning the working hours and pay overtime to their workers.

Under the law, an employee should not work for more than 8 hours a day in most professions, or 9 hours in certain activities. The overtime, as stipulated by the law, should not exceed two hours beyond the normal eight hours, for which an employee is entitled for more pay, equivalent to the renumeration of one hour plus a minimum of 25 per cent.

The ministry had clarified on many occasions that it does not object to nor interfere in the companies’ decision to put their employees to work at anytime during the 24 hours, be it during the day or night, as long as the working hours are observed and the companies pay the overtime.

The Minister of Labour stressed that the UAE respects the rights of workers and works towards ensuring that foreign manpower receives their full rights in accordance with the regulations of the International Labour Organisation and the International Resolution on Working Hours. He said that all establishments in the contracting sector do not object to giving workers rest time.

The new ministerial order on noontime break for construction workers in July and August, clearly determines in Article 2 the ministry’s stance with regard to working hours and work at night, as it states: “The daily working hours in the morning and evening shifts or in either of them, should not exceed eight hours in 24 hours. Any work done beyond the eight-hour shift is considered overtime for which a worker is paid more as per the provisions of the law.” The order demanded of the employers to post a timetable of daily working hours in a language understood by workers as well as in Arabic at work sites to enable all workers to read it, and to make it seen by labour inspectors when they visit the site.

Under the order, employers should provide their workers with preventive and safety measures to protect them from work injuries and occupational hazards that could occur during the working hours, and from fires and other diseases. Employers are also required to adhere to safety precautions stated by labour legislations, while workers were urged to follow instructions aimed at protecting them from dangers, and prohibiting them from doing any act that obstructs the execution of these instructions.

The order has exempted from the two-and-a-half hour noon break the activities which necessitate continuity of work for technical reasons, in which case employers are compelled to provide cold drinking water in quantities suitable to the number of workers and rehydration salts and lemon. Employers were also instructed to provide first aid at work sites, sun shades, and air-conditioning.

Companies that fail to observe the new regulations will be subject to tough penalties specified by the order as follows: First-time violation entails a demotion of the company to category C for three months. Companies belonging to this category will to have to pay the highest fee for labour transactions, in addition to a hefty fine of Dh10,000 as per cabinet resolution No. 19 for 2005. If the erring firm is already in Group C, it will be fined and its transactions for new employment permits suspended for three months. In case the company repeats the violation, it will be downgraded to Group C for six months, and will have its labour transactions for new employment permits suspended for the same duration, besides being fined Dh20,000. A third-time violation entails a suspension of labour transactions for one year and a fine of Dh30,000.

Under the order, at all levels of violations, the names of the offenders — firms, employers and managers — will be published in the local daily newspapers and on the notice boards of the Ministry of Labour. The minister entrusted the ministry’s under-secretary to issue a list of the activities to be exempted from implementing the noon-break rule and take necessary measures to put the resolution in place.

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