Protest march halted by police as labourers demand resolution

Construction workers stop work for the day to demonstrate about a lack of payment while wage cases may go to court

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By  Rhys Jones Published  March 27, 2004

Over 2000 construction workers stopped work for the day last week in protest against the non-payment of three months worth of wages. The labourers marched in a one km long queue from their Al Quoz accommodation towards the labour office to alert the relevant authorities to their grievances. However, having marched fully four km the workers were stopped half way down Sheikh Zayed Road by police and ordered to turn back. Police said that they stopped workers marching on the highway to ensure their safety but labour officials said the police alerted the ministry to the imminent protest and a team of inspectors and legal consultants was sent to the accommodation block. “Negotiations between workers and company officials yielded a settlement. The company officials promised to pay a month’s salary today, another month’s before the end of this month and the third month’s along with the March salary early in April,” a legal consultant said. In a separate issue, around 100 workers complained to the labour ministry about the failure of their employer to honour an agreement reached a week ago. The complainants, who were not paid eight month’s worth of wages, said they were promised pay up to October’s salary on March 20. This promise was made at the Labour Relations Department on October 12 where it was agreed that if the dispute was not fully resolved it would be referred to the court and the workers would be issued with temporary work permits. Furthermore, workers complained that there is no water or electricity at their accommodation block and one aggrieved worker said that he and some of his colleagues had to stay out in the open some nights as the generator wasn’t working. Many workers said they were only paid their first salary after working for four months. The company concerned, which cannot be named for legal reasons is in a bad financial state and has incurred Dh45 million in debts alone. “Banks have even seized seven pick-ups and jeeps that belong to the company,” one worker said.

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