Workers protest against delay in payment of dues

DUBAI — Hundreds of workers of a contracting company yesterday protested against the delay in the distribution of pending overtime for a couple of months and the introduction of an attendance registration machine at the project site of the company in Al Aweer.

By Eman Al Baik And Riyasbabu

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Published: Thu 24 Nov 2005, 9:42 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:47 PM

The workers refused to work demanding immediate distribution of the pending overtime dues and marched towards the office of the project manager of Al Shafar Transport and Contracting Company. They also broke the window panes of the project office. Police and labour ministry officials rushed to the spot and held a discussion with the workers and the management.

A source at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said that Dubai Police were notified about the protest of the workers.

Subsequent to the protest, the employer assured that he would pay the dues for September today and those for October tomorrow, despite the fact that it is a practice in the construction sector to keep two months salaries with the company,

According to workers, the company did not pay salary for the last four months and did not calculate their overtime properly. "We are in trouble. Our salary is Dh 540 a month and we are managing to survive because of the extra money we make from the overtime. We work hard but the company is not giving money on time. Besides, if we work for five hours overtime, they pay us only for one hour," said Narayanan, a worker.

Raju, another worker, also echoed the same sentiment, "I work for more than five hours in excess of the normal working hours daily but I am marked for only one hour of overtime. We receive only a small salary and we have to pay for food from it."

He complained about the living conditions in their labour camp saying: "The rooms are congested with eight to ten people in one room. In the camp there is no proper sanitation and other basic amenities. We are living here like animals and not like human beings."

The company officials denied the allegation saying the salary was being paid to the workers on time. "We introduced a new punching system for workers where they have to record each time they go in and out. Some workers don't work over time and claim overtime money. We introduced this system to trace this problem and they are not happy about it. They want to continue the old system in which the foreman maintained a record of the timings," said Ahmed Iffat, Chief Engineer of the company.

The employer, who was at the site, said that the machine would enable counting accurately the over time hours that the workers put in.

The officials from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, who arrived at the protest site, urged the workers to resume work assuring they would look into their problems and resolve them soon.

Meanwhile, an official of the ministry disclosed: "We found out that the workers refused to take job assignments following the installation of an attendance monitoring machine at the site."

Prior to the installation of the attendance machine, the foreman at the site used to register the workers' attendance and overtime hours. The company's management suspected that with the foreman's complicity, workers were recording more hours of overtime than they actually worked. The company introduced the machine with a view to fixing this problem and ensuring accuracy.

The insistance of the workers on the former system raised suspicions that there were complicity between them and the foreman, the source pointed out.

The company was planning to install the machine at its various project sites, but this one happened to be the first, he said.

The ministry told the workers that the employer had the right to install the machine. Beside, it is in the workers' interest to have the hours calculated accurately, said the source.

"Some workers took job assignments at the project's site while some others went back to the labour camp. Those who continued protesting at the labour camp have asked for the payment of salaries for the months of September and October after their protest over the installation of the machine failed," he said, adding: "We asked the workers to choose four or five people to represent them at the ministry if they still feel that they have problems with their employer."

Workers who insist on the former system will be given a choice either to accept the job or to have their visas cancelled, he added.

The ministry took the opportunity and inspected the company's labour camp which was found in good condition.

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