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Arabtec hikes workers’ salaries months after strike

Dubai labourers go on rare strike for more pay

UAE’s largest contractor builds ‘exemplary work environment’.

September 30, 2013 3:44 by

Dubai builder Arabtec has decided to grant an average salary hike of 20 per cent to 36,000 of its employees working on projects across the UAE.

This move, according to state news agency WAM, is part of the country’s efforts to provide an “exemplary work environment” for its workers.

If anything, the move certainly marks a change of tone.

Four months ago, thousands of workers went on a two-day strike over pay disputes, when a group asked for a pay rise of AED250 to be added to their monthly salary of AED750.

Most reports indicate that the average salaries of Arabtec workers range from between AED650 to AED1, 200 per month.

Many workers vowed to continue the strike, which began on May 20, until their demands were met. Meanwhile, the company assured the public that the labour dispute will be resolved soon (with the help of the Ministry of Labour and Dubai Police) and that its projects’ delivery schedules will not be affected. At the time, the company also said that although the strike ended amicably, instigators would face severe consequences for their actions. Hence, nearly 1,000 workers were sent home, but Arabtec maintains that they left on their own accord.

Despite public protests and labour strikes being almost non-existent in Gulf countries, this wasn’t Arabtec’s first encounter with wage-related disputes. In 2011, 70 workers were arrested for instigating a 3,000-man protest over wages. In 2007, 30,000 workers went on a 10-day strike.

Qatar prepares for 2020 World Cup – but at what cost?

The move by Arabtec aims to highlight the UAE’s labour rights protection, according to WAM. However, it comes at a time when the alleged mistreatment of workers across the Gulf region is, once again, under the international spotlight – particularly following the recent expose of the exploitation of workers in Qatar.

An investigation, by London’s The Guardian newspaper, found that, during summer, Nepalese labourers in Qatar were dying at a rate of approximately one per day. According to documents from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, 44 workers died between June 4 and August 8. More than half suffered heart attacks or workplace accidents.

The world’s professional footballers’ association, Fifpro, recently told Qatar that it must respect the rights of workers who are building the 2022 World Cup stadiums.

It adds: “Fifpro is deeply alarmed by reports of brutal exploitation of migrant workers by construction companies in Qatar that are involved in building the stadiums that Fifpro­ members will be expected to play in.”

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