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Laboring under the UAE’s sun

Laboring under the UAE’s sun

The UAE’s Ministry of Labor is enforcing summer breaks for workers between 12.30pm and 3pm. But there are exceptions to the rule.

May 27, 2009 3:10 by

Workers laboring under the sun will be given a two and a half hour break, from 12.30pm to 3pm, starting July 1 – August 31, says the Ministry of Labor in a statement released on Wednesday. The law, which will not apply to laborers who work under shaded areas, was introduced in 2005, but is updated regularly.

In addition to the mid-day break, the law says laborers must not work more than eight hours during a 24 hour period, otherwise the company must pay them overtime.

If a company violates the law, the ministry will downgrade its rating to “C”, and fine it AED10,000 for the first offense. If a company’s rating is already “C”, then the government will impose a limit on the number of visa permits the company can issue. The fine is increased to AED20,000 for a company’s second offense, and AED30,000 for its third.

Given the severity of the UAE’s summer heat, the law is a welcomed initiative by the government. However, it doesn’t apply to everyone.

Laborers who work under the sun manning concrete mixers, or working on the UAE’s water supply, drains, electricity, traffic, gas and petrol will not be allowed mid-day breaks, although they will be given umbrellas, sunglasses, water and other provisions to ensure they do not suffer from dehydration.

In spite of these provisions, the ministry’s announcement may raise questions about the government’s commitment to improving the plight of laborers in the UAE, especially given that the laborers exempted from the law are those working on infrastructural – and therefore governmental – projects.

The UAE has faced criticism from human rights organizations and the world press for its treatment of workers. Panorama, a BBC program, showed workers’ poor living and working conditions, and detailed their financial and social hardships in the UAE. The show caused an outcry by the international community against workers’ abuse in the UAE, and fuelled an already prevalent Dubai-bashing trend in the world press.

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