New measures to protect the rights of workers

ABU DHABI - New measures to protect worker's rights, ensure a fair employer-employee relationship and curb the phenomenon of absconding workers in the labour market will be enforced soon, Mattar Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, said on Tuesday.

By Nada S. Mussallam

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Published: Wed 21 Apr 2004, 12:03 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:08 PM

Speaking at the Federal National Council (FNC), the minister said the new measures include introducing a new provision in the labour contract to protect the employee's rights, including financial entitlements and conditions to ensure a fair relationship between the employer and the employee, which, in turn, would curb the problem of absconding workers.

The minister was summoned by the house to answer questions raised by the members on the issue of absconding workers, which has recently showed an alarming surge.

Expressing concern over the increasing number of absconding labourers, Mr Al Tayer said: "since January 1 and until now, 3,537 workers have been reported as absconding at the Labour Relations Department."

The issue was raised by FNC member Mubarak Ali Al Shamsi who inquired about the ministry's procedures to reduce the phenomenon. The council's session was presided over by Speaker Mohammed Saeed Ghandi.

Mr Shamsi proposed that the labour laws should be revised so as to reduce the phenomenon and that the concerned authorities should exert their utmost effort to find an effective solution to the problem, which he said "is badly affecting the national economy".

He noted that in 2002, the number of absconding workers ranged between 350,000 to a million.

Mr Al Tayer clarified that reasons behind the phenomenon include ignorance of the employee about the labour laws and regulations, non-compliance of employers with the terms of the labour contract, and attempts of workers who have loans who run away to avoid their financial obligations.

"The recruitment offices are also to be blamed in many cases, as some of them mislead the workers in terms of job opportunities that they offer, and burden them with high fees to secure them with a job in the country," said the minister.

To curb the phenomenon, the ministry has reinforced the Labour Inspection Department with modern facilities and qualified national cadres, to enhance inspection operations carried out at companies functioning within the country.

"The ministry has also enforced the cabinet decree No 14 of 2001, which stipulates that the employer should pay a refundable Dh3000 sponsorship bank guarantee," said Mr Al Tayer.

The 5th article of the Ministerial Council resolution no. 30 of 2001, on sponsorship transfer was also implemented to streamline the labour market, he said.

The ministerial order no 156 0f 2003 issued by the ministry on the protection of workers' wages, under which companies have to provide the ministry with quarterly report on the salary status of their employees, was also put in place, he said.

The minister proposed that joint efforts should be made to reduce the number of absconding workers, drawing the attention of the house to the fact that the country had several entry points, a matter that increases the possibility of having illegal workers.

Responding to another inquiry by FNC member Ahmed Shabeeb Al Dahiri on the ministerial decision concerning secondary school certificate and governing issuing of employment visa, Mr Al Tayer said "based on its new trend to increase the skilled labour force, the ministry had made it mandatory that private firms functioning within the country should not recruit workers who are not holding secondary school certificate or its equivalent."

However, the law exceptionally allows firms to recruit workers who do not obtain secondary school certificate or its equivalent provided that they were of Arab nationals, clarified the minister. He underlined that the Gulf countries are surrounded by 1.5 billion foreign labour force, who ardently seek to get the chance to work in these countries.

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