Ministerial orders are ignored by UAE construction companies

Unpaid labourers in Abu Dhabi and Dubai protest as residence visa and labour permit fee debate rumbles on.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  July 17, 2004

New ministerial orders issued to protect workers’ rights are being flagrantly ignored by a host of UAE construction companies. Firms employing over 200 workers have been ordered to provide regular audit reports to prove that they are paying salaries regularly. However, a recent spate of protests and complaints by disgruntled workers suggests that certain companies are cutting corners. The Labour Relations Department at the Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs last week managed to settle a collective labour dispute involving 450 workers and their company manager. Nevertheless, an agreement on which party will pay visa and labour permit fees has yet to be agreed. The labourers, who are mostly Indians and Pakistanis, lodged a complaint with the ministry regarding up to five months of unpaid wages against a company working across the construction, contracting, transportation and maintenance sectors in Abu Dhabi. “The ministry has managed to resolve the dispute peacefully as the finance manager for the companies pledged to pay the workers their dues for the month of March,” said a source at the Labour Relations Department. “The ministry set a 13th July deadline for the sponsor to live up to this word,” the source added. In terms of the agreement, the finance manager of the company has said the workers will get their wages for the month of April on July 25. The company involved has also pledged to abide by the terms of the labour contract and labour regulations when paying back the labourers their dues. Furthermore, the workers have also complained to the ministry about allegedly being forced to pay residence visa and labour permit fees. As a result, the ministry has promised to look into the issue and clamp down on companies charging their employees for visas, health cards and labour permits, which is a violation of UAE labour laws and regulations. Meanwhile, a group of disgruntled workers gathered outside the Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs in Dubai for two consecutive days last week to protest about unpaid wages. 19 labourers complained that they had not been paid for months but the ministry’s labour relations department could not register the complaint because the company concerned was licensed from Abu Dhabi.

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