UAE’s daytime working ban? What daytime working ban?

The summer daytime working ban was hailed as a positive move for the construction industry. But when CW took to the streets two days after its introduction, we discovered that not only were some contractors ignoring the ban, but that many labourers were unaware of its existence.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  July 9, 2005

It may have grabbed the headlines in the UAE press for the last week, but the introduction of the summer daytime working ban is still news to the very people who will be affected by it most — site workers. Last week’s shock announcement by the Ministry Of Labour that all outdoor working would cease between 12.30 pm and 4.30 pm caught many firms on the hop. But when Construction Week took to the streets of Dubai two days into the midday site curfew, it soon became clear that many contractors are simply choosing to ignore the ban and that many site workers do not even know that it has been introduced. Site worker Wasim Azam was working on the erection of Emaar flags around the main Burj site off Sheikh Zayed Road at 2.15 pm on July 3rd — nearly two hours after all work should have stopped. But the first time he heard about the daytime working ban was when a CW reporter approached him and told him. Azam said: “I’ve been working since the morning. It’s afternoon now and no one has asked us to stop working yet. “I haven’t heard of such a rule anyway, and if any other workers would have heard of it, it would have surely spread around." Neither had co-worker Lal Zaada heard of the ban. “We’ve been working the regular hours as usual,” he said. Less than a week after the announcement on the new working restrictions, there are already signs that the Ministry of Labour is beginning to backtrack with plans to allow limited outdoor work to continue, provided it is done in the shade. While it is understood that contractors could face fines of up to AED3000-a-man for every worker caught on site between 12.30 and 4.30 pm, it is unlikely that the Ministry has the resources to police even a tiny fraction of the ongoing construction projects in the UAE. Many contractors working on high profile time-critical projects could face even bigger financial losses as a result of busting their tight deadlines. For the contractors that do comply with the ban in the coming weeks, the main problem will be deciding on where to accommodate site workers during the four hours of downtime. One contractor said: “The big problem is deciding what to do with the 300 guys we have working on site. “You can’t just have them hanging around for that length of time, but it’s logistically difficult to bus them back to their labour camps. “For contractors with workers who are coming from labour camps that are close by, it’s not much of an issue — but if they have to travel any sort of distance then it will be a real problem.” Another dilemma facing contractors will be whether to submit extension of time claims to clients. Michelle Nelson of legal firm Masons Galadari, said: “Generally, when contractors price the work, they are deemed to include any future changes in legislation and law.” But whether or not contractors have a case may depend on the inclusion of specified working hours in the contract. Jeremy Cama of legal firm Berrymans Lace Mawer, said: “It would be relevant if a contract states specific working hours — if so, there is a potential for an extension of time to be granted.” Stephen Parker, claims consultant at Brian E. Rawling, said: “Contracts often include rules of enactment that contractors have to deal with. Whether they decide to place a claim or not is up to them. Most people I have spoken to are simply bringing morning starts forward and extending in the evenings.”

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