More rights, better labor
The UAE plans to make “decent work” available for all employees in the country. But will it be implemented across the board?
January 14, 2009 3:59 by Dana Moukhallati
The UAE government and the International Labor Organization (ILO) will be working together to form a program making “decent work” accessible to everyone in the country.
Maurizio Bussi, Deputy Regional Director, ILO, said that implementing the “decent work country program” will help improve and enhance fundamental labor principles and rights.
The program is being tailored to achieve the country’s objectives “which are set in a national framework and in accordance with national priorities.” It has a “flexible” timeframe and should be fully implemented in three to five years, explains Bussi.
According to a senior Ministry of Labor official, the protocol will be ready to be signed by April 2009, after the different partners in the UAE government decide on a national framework in which the program will be implemented.
The two most important issues that the UAE government has to address are making sure that the workers are protected and provided with social benefits incase they lost their jobs, as well as ensuring that the workers are given an opportunity to voice their concerns.
Making “decent work” accessible to everyone and giving workers security and more rights sounds great, but will it be implemented properly?
“The UAE labor law needs to be adequate to support the reform process, the capacity for inspection also needs to be addressed to ensure implementation,” said Bussi.
In 2006, a report entitled “Building Towers, Cheating Workers” reported serious abuses of construction workers by employers in the UAE. The abuse allegations in the 71-page report ranged from forcing workers to pay an “illegal sum to get working permits, to delayed payment of salaries, lack of safety measures in construction sites and poor living conditions in accommodation facilities.” Employers withheld their employees’ passports, which is illegal in the UAE.
In response to the report, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, instructed the labor minister to take “necessary action to address the issues of expatriate workers in the country. He ordered the ministry to ensure improved standards of health, safety and quality of life for expatriate workers in both their workplaces and living areas.”
Since then, however, numerous riots and reports have shown that working conditions have not improved across the board. Closer inspection of the matter is needed to make sure that labor laws are being enforced and if not, then employers should face the consequences. Perhaps with the new program, conditions may improve. It’s hard to tell.