Tens of thousands of Indian construction workers are being flown out of the country by their employers on bulk-booked flights in March, it was reported on Sunday.
According to figures gleaned by the Indian Consulate in Dubai from Indian airlines, a total of 20,000 workers from several construction firms are leaving next month.
They are either being sent back home on long leave, or are being redeployed to work on projects in other Gulf countries, such as Qatar, according to a report in UAE daily Emirates Business.
The move comes a week after it was revealed that 53 percent of the UAE’s planned $1.28 trillion construction projects were now on hold, as the real estate sector struggled with the global economic downturn, according to Dubai-based market research firm Proleads.
Venu Rajamony, Indian Consul General in Dubai, said the bulk bookings indicated that the financial crisis was now impacting on the one million Indian workers currently employed in the UAE.
But, he denied that there was any evidence of mass termination, pointing out that the recently reported 25,000 to 30,000 work visa cancellations in Dubai was a normal figure.
Instead companies were taking precautions by relocating, or giving leave, to surplus staff, he told the newspaper.
"Air-India and other Indian carriers are getting ready to accommodate these 20,000 bulk bookings in March," Rajamony said.
"According to figures released by Dubai Emigration authorities to the Indian Consulate, there were between 25,000 and 30,000 visa cancellations in the past two months, which is a normal figure. There were also 13,000 new visas issued by the emigration authorities," he added.
There was also no evidence that construction companies were flouting labour laws, with the number of labour complaints remaining stagnant, he added.
Companies were under strict orders of the UAE Ministry of Labour to follow the law to the letter, Rajamony revealed.
"We have not seen an increase in the number of complaints. There is an increase in the application for out passes, from 200 applicants a month in 2008, to 400 applications in January 2009.”
Big contracting and construction companies had also confirmed to the consulate that they had enough contracts to continue to employ workers, he told the newspaper.
"Some big companies from Dubai have projects in Abu Dhabi and Qatar and are repositioning their workers to these places. They are not cancelling the workers' visas because it will be difficult to get new visas later," Rajamony said.
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