A fair deal

PROTECTING the rights of the weakest segment in society is invariably the strongest testimony of good governance. Not surprisingly, the UAE Labour Minister Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi's assurance that the country is mulling a proposal regarding fixed minimum wages for unskilled workers deserves to be highly commended.

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Published: Fri 14 Dec 2007, 9:42 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:52 AM

That the proposal is perfectly in line with and endorsed by the enlightened leadership of the UAE, especially the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, need hardly be reiterated. What is now of consequence is what next?

Obviously, the impact of any such pioneering regulatory mechanism in the ever-expanding labour sector in the Gulf, affecting millions and millions of expatriate and other unskilled workers, will be felt not just within the Emirates, but elsewhere in the region as well.

It would not be surprising that the UAE's lead in this context, once any such proposed mechanism is finally in place, provides the blue-print and the much-needed impetus for initiating similar labour protection laws throughout the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states. And the reason why we should expect this to follow as a natural corollary is because all the six GCC states (including the UAE) have similarly large numbers of unskilled labourers and thus often confront similar problems related to their welfare.

With the UAE also slated to host the Fourth Ministerial Consultations on Overseas Employment and Contractual Labour for Countries of Origin in Asia, commonly known as the Colombo Process, next month in Abu Dhabi, now is the time to seriously take the minimum wages proposal forward. Already, a study is being carried out by the UAE's National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia). And if past precedent is any guide, one can well assume that a minimum wages law would be legislated here sooner rather than later.

The pace of change and the momentum of it is also a sign of good governance. And on that count, the UAE has already established a big lead in a big way in various spheres in this region. Also, it would be well to bear in mind that what is good for the employees is always also good for the employers.

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