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Working for the workers
The UAE minister of labor says that the government is introducing measures to help the nation’s workforce.
April 28, 2009 9:36 by Aarti Nagraj
The UAE’s labor ministry is planning to adopt a series of measures to protect workers’ rights – both low and high income – in the country.
Saqr Ghobash, the Minister of Labor has said that the cabinet may pass two laws in the near future to help expatriate workers: the first will allow workers who lose their jobs to stay in the country for up to six months, and the second gives laid-off workers a longer grace period before their visas expire. While the first law could be passed in two weeks, the second one will take two months, reports The National.
The ministry is also putting together a new plan for what it calls flexible labor market policies to deal with the current financial situation. Gobash said the plan would create flexible labor movement within the country by reducing the fees companies pay when recruiting from inside the country, and not granting work permits for workers abroad if there are people with the same expertise in the country.
Gobash said that the ministry is also looking into the condition of laborers’ rights in the country. They are planning to adopt new criteria for labor accommodation, and to force companies to pay workers’ salaries through banks.
The ministry’s records say that around 500,000 laborers already receive their salary by bank transfer, but they want to include every worker in the system, and to keep track of late or non-payment of salaries.
“Banks have previously refused to open accounts and allow the transfer of salaries because it’s too costly for them when the salaries aren’t high,” said Ghobash. “Teaming up with the central bank and exchange centers, we can now know who is violating rights, even if it is one laborer who is not getting paid.”
He also said that while new labor accommodations will have to meet the updated criteria, existing ones will also be given a grace period to meet the standards, and if they don’t, then they will have to be closed down. However, Ghobash did not reveal how long the grace period will be, reports Gulf News.
“We don’t name and shame,” he said, but “we don’t allow the abuse of workers”.
“We don’t say they are not happening, but we don’t accept labor violations nor allow them,” he said adding “companies who violate will also face stiffer fines under the new law.”
The new regulations for the laborers follow recent reports by international media about the poor living conditions in Dubai. The Dubai police at the time promised to look into the issue.
Earlier this month, Kipp highlighted the number of articles written about the issue, and had wondered whether this time, the reports will manage to have a long-term impact on workers’ living and working conditions.
It appears the government is doing something about it.