Further labour protests lodged as religious slurs become an issue

Abu Dhabi-based labourers allege their foreman made inappropriate religious remarks as non-payment saga continues

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By  Rhys Jones Published  September 25, 2004

Three Arab construction workers resigned and lodged a complaint with the UAE’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs last week, claiming that their foreman made racist and religiously inappropriate remarks. The Egyptian labourers claim the foreman humiliated them and belittled their religious beliefs. However, the ministry claims allegations that the foreman used a religious slur is not an excuse to quit and has washed its hands of any involvement in the affair. “The ministry is concerned with safeguarding the rights and interests of both the employees and the employers, and securing quick settlement for labour disputes. Interpersonal relationship is not our concern,” said a ministry source, who did not want to be named. The workers, who belong to an Abu Dhabi construction company that was recently taken over, have also lodged complaints regarding five weeks of unpaid salary, maltreatment and have also claimed other entitlements. “They [the workers] have demanded that the new sponsor pay them a total of Dhs 6000 each, including the bank guarantee, a one-month salary and end of service benefits,” said the source. Article 126 of the labour law, stipulates that where a change occurs in the form or the legal status of the establishment, contracts of employment that are valid at the time of the change should remain in force between the new employer and the workers. Furthermore, both the original sponsor and the new employer are jointly liable for a period of six months for the discharge of any obligations resulting from the contract of employment during the period before the change. As a result, the ministry decided that the original sponsor and the new employer should jointly bear any expenses with the new employer to bear sole responsibility after the expiry of the six month period. The new owner is apparently willing to pay the workers the bank guarantee and terminate their services. However, the labourers insist on getting the one-month salary and end of service benefits. “The ministry referred the case to the court for quick settlement,”said the source.

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