Task force to fight for labourers’ rights

DUBAI Authorities have responded to concerns over the poor treatment of construction labourers across the emirate.

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By  David Robinson Published  September 25, 2005

DUBAI Authorities have responded to concerns over the poor treatment of construction labourers across the emirate. The issue was highlighted last week when about 1000 workers from the Al Hamed Company for Development and Projects gathered in the middle of Sheikh Zayed Road last Monday morning to demand unpaid wages, halting rush-hour traffic for more than an hour. A task force, the Permanent Committee of Labour Affairs, has been set up to tackle the problem and provide a forum and address difficulties experienced by labourers and their employers. Part of the service will provide an avenue for labourers to contact authorities if they are not being paid or feel their employers are unfairly abusing them. “We will listen to the labourers and their problems and listen to the company managers their problems,” said Captain Fahd Al Awadi, from Dubai police’s human rights department, He agreed that construction labourers had been treated very badly in the emirate in the past, but assured that this was changing. Al Awdhi said a common problem was that the construction firms experienced delays in payment from the contractors that had commissioned the projects. Therefore, they inevitability had to delay payment to the labours. “Some companies have different projects and they invest in different sites so their cash flow will be spent all over the place, so then suddenly they have a shortage,” he said. Al Awdhi said it was the aim of the committee to make sure this stopped happening and that construction companies had the capital to fully support whatever projects they were undertaking. “You cannot run a company in this country without having funds in the bank,” he said. The Permanent Committee of Labour Affairs is made up of officials from the police force, the municipality and the immigration department, amongst others. Al Awdhi assured that the body would come down hard on any firms that deliberately avoided paying their workers. “There are companies which are frauds, they toy with people and use them.” He said, in such instances, the committee would help these workers find another sponsor. Al Awdhi added that in many instances, it was possible for the committee to get construction companies to cough up unpaid wages within 48 hours. The committee is compiling a list of all construction companies in Dubai, calling them up, looking at their salary situation, and the problems they faced. Construction workers in Dubai are paid, on average, about 800 dirhams a month. Al Awadi said the committee would be following up to make sure the workers involved in the protest on Sheikh Zayed Road received their overdue wages.

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