Ministry steps in to help
1,200 unpaid workers

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Ministry steps in to help
1,200 unpaid workers

DUBAI - They want their voices heard but remind you to blank out names and faces for fear of reprisals. The emotions of the men huddled in the middle switch from despair to brooding anger.

by

Allan Jacob

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Published: Fri 19 Apr 2013, 12:46 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:55 AM

A lanky lad with drooping shoulders cannot bear the torment anymore and lets an expletive slip during a conversation with his buddies. Most workers said the uncertainty over delayed salaries and their uncertain status in the country is akin to killing them — it’s worse than losing their jobs.

They have been waiting for three months. Promises were meant to be broken during this period and the men remain without pay after several projects were shelved. But they now see a ray of hope following an intervention by the Ministry of Labour on Thursday.

The owners of the firm vanished leaving the staff and their families stranded. Sounds all too familiar, but 1,200 employees of the Dolphin Group of companies decided enough was enough and attempted to draw the attention of the authorities to their plight. Gathering at the company’s main office in Bur Dubai on Sunday and later on Wednesday, they demanded settlement of their dues. Police and labour officials assured the workers that their grievances would be addressed by the end of the week.

True to their word, the Ministry of Labour decided to liquidate bank guarantees of Dh4 million in favour of the affected workers on Thursday. 
“Under the directives of the Minister of Labour, Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash, the said establishment’s case was referred to Dubai Public Prosecution to take the necessary legal action against it, while the ministry today liquidated the bank guarantees valued at over Dh4 million to pay delayed salaries of three months,” said Humaid Rashid bin Demas, Acting Undersecretary at the ministry.

Bin Demas said the Dubai Courts would look into cases and speed up the verdict against the absconding investors.

He said the ministry would work with the Dubai Police and the Permanent Committee for Labour Affairs to facilitate travel procedures for workers who would like to depart to their countries or provide instant approvals should they wish to transfer to other companies.

“The Asian investor was called earlier after the workers stopped their activities and filed a complaint against him regarding delay in their payments. After an inspection was conducted by the ministry, the investor presented a written pledge to deliver the payments according to a schedule which was signed by the workers, but he fled the country right before the payment was due,” the official said.

Bin Demas added that the ministry had stopped issuing work permits for workers in the establishment as soon as the issue was brought to the ministry’s notice.

“The ministry will not be lenient with any establishment that delays salaries of workers,” he warned.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, a worker said the management changed hands last year and the business was in a state of decline with the loss of projects. “Salaries have not been deposited into our bank accounts from January,” said another employee.

The men were promised the first tranche of pending salaries in March. The date was later pushed to April 14. “We sought help from the Indian consulate and the labour department,” an employee said.

They even petitioned Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy during his visit to the UAE last week.

On Sunday, workers housed in labour accomodations rented by the company in Sonapur, Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah were bussed to the company’s main office in Bur Dubai.

Company officials could not be reached for comment. Sources said the former managing director of the firm, S.B., left the UAE in March.

The company’s general manager, V.D., also an Indian, who was tasked by the absconding owner to settle the dispute is also on the run and his whereabouts are not known. Efforts to get in touch with the two men have proved.

Acting on the workers’ complaint, the Indian Consulate in Dubai directed the general manager to sort out the issue, failing which legal action, among others, would be taken. “As a power of attorney holder, you have to act, represent, settle all matters related to the company on behalf of the company’s owner,” said the consulate in a letter to V.D. It also ordered the company official to present himself at the consulate.

The mission warned that their passports would be blacklisted and travel ban would be slapped on them, but they got away before they were held to account, the workers said.

“We don’t know what will happen to our end-of-service benefits, but our immediate concern is about our salaries without which we cannot make ends meet and are thankful to the labour ministry for heeding our calls for help,” said an employee.

Many of the blue-collar workers are concerned about the welfare of their families back home as they haven’t remitted money for six months. “The situation was fine initially and they would pay us by the middle of every month, so we didn’t sound the alarm, but it got worse after a couple of months when we realised the company had been sold but we don’t know to whom to talk to,” said an electrical engineer with the firm.

Khaleej Times checked the website of the company in question and found that it had not been updated since June 2012. Calls and efforts to get in touch with company officials did not bear fruit even after three days.

On its website, the company boasts of having leading government and private sector clients.

allan@khaleejtimes.comn



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