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Speak, not strike

October 29, 2007 10:00 by

The UAE government says it will deport the workers rounded up after riots at a Jebel Ali labor camp. The Labor Ministry called the protests “uncivilized” (stones were thrown and police cars damaged) and that it won’t tolerate illegal strike action.

The workers can’t say they weren’t warned. The authorities have always insisted on a zero tolerance approach to labor relations, and that they will listen to any legitimate complaints. It can point to progress on contract disputes, wage increases, working hours, accommodation, transport, and summertime breaks.

But this is clearly not enough. The first most residents of the UAE about worker dissatisfaction when the media picks up on trouble - and riots, walk outs and go-slows usually do the trick. The international media is finding the subject an easy stick with which to beat Dubai.

There could be as many as 500,000 laborers currently working in Dubai, but how many of us really know their issues? From media reports it seems to be same old complaints - wages, accommodation, contracts. But how many of theses are serious, intractable differences, and how many could be solved with a quiet word and a little action?

Giving the workers a voice, letting them know there is an outlet for dialogue, rather than confrontation, would be a better solution than riot police and stone-throwing.

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