UAE workers’ organisations may be given go ahead in ILO meeting

Proposal for formation of workers’ organisations being scrutinised by UAE cabinet as labour conference gets underway

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By  Rhys Jones Published  June 5, 2004

A final proposal for the establishment of workers’ organisations in the UAE has been submitted to the UAE Cabinet for approval and is expected to be given the go ahead at a meeting to coincide with the ongoing International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference in Geneva (June 1-17). At the conference, member countries will detail their compliance with international labour resolutions including the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The conference also supervises the implementation of conventions and recommendations at a national level. It examines reports which the governments of all member states are required to submit, detailing their compliance with labour rules and regulations set by the governing body of the ILO. A committee formed by the UAE government comprising representatives from bodies including the Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs (MLSA) and the ministries of the Interior and Justice has drafted a proposal to form workers organisations in the UAE at the establishment, sector and occupational levels. “The proposal outlines several options for forming workers’ organisations and unions taking into account the peculiar demographic structure of the UAE and the structure of the labour market, which is comprised mainly of expatriates,” said a MLSA source. According to the proposal, a law will be drafted within six months to legalise the set up of workers’ organisations, while rules regarding the formation of trade unions will also follow. Nevertheless, the regulations will favour UAE nationals who will be allowed to form and run the workers’ organisations. “One of the proposals is to allow only UAE nationals to be founders and working members of the organisations while expatriates can join as non-working members,” the source said. However, the UAE’s proposal comes on the back of pressure from the ILO for the country to include representatives of workers’ unions in its delegations to ILO conferences. Furthermore, by creating these organisations the UAE will finally ratify the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. “Under the proposal submitted by the committee, these professional associations could be turned into organisations as one of the numerous options we recommended to upgrade the level of representation of workers at the local or international levels,” said the MLSA. Under the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work all workers and employers have the right to freely form and join organisations to promote and defend their interests, without interference from others States.

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