Arabtec says working to resolve labour dispute

Dubai construction firm says strike action will not impact project delivery schedule - statement

Arabtec, Dubai's largest construction firm, said on Tuesday the delivery of projects was unaffected by what it called a partial labour stoppage, adding it was working with authorities in the UAE to resolve the issue.

Thousands of Arabtec workers have been on strike since Saturday demanding better wages, a rare labour protest in the Gulf Arab country which relies on migrant labourers hired on a contract basis from South Asian countries for construction work and which doesn't allow trade unions.

Two Arabtec employees said on Tuesday that some workers had begun returning to work, but others continue to observe the stoppage. Workers, who are paid $160-$190 a month, said they had not been given any promises on wage increases.

"Arabtec has been working closely with the UAE Ministry of Labour, the Dubai Police and the concerned security authorities to resolve as soon as possible a partial workers stoppage by a limited number of Arabtec labour employees," the company said in a bourse filing on Tuesday.

"Arabtec reiterates that project delivery timelines have and will not be affected."

Work stopped at most Arabtec work sites in Dubai for a third day on Monday, including the $163m Dubai Airport Terminal 2 expansion.

Other sites like the government housing project in Dubai's Al Barsha area and some commercial towers on the main Sheikh Zayed Road and in the Dubai Marina were impacted.

Several sites in Abu Dhabi were also affected, including the new Midfield Airport Terminal project.

The National newspaper said that police were called into one labour camp at Jebel Ali port area after workers refused to report to work on Monday, but it gave no further details.

Arabtec was part of a consortium that won a $653 million contract in January to build a branch of France's Louvre museum on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island. The master developer of the project, Tourism and Development Investment Company (TDIC), said it had not been impacted by the strike.

Arabtec, in which Abu Dhabi state-owned fund Aabar owns a near 22 percent stake, was among the contractors that built Dubai's palm-shaped island projects and the world's tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa.

Arabtec labourers told Reuters on Monday they are demanding an increase of around AED200 ($54.45) in monthly salary.

"We are only asking for 1,000 dirhams per month but the company is not agreeing to this," said one Arabtec worker who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The Labour Ministry had said that Arabtec was paying the workers according to contracts it had signed with them, adding their accommodation was in compliance with labour regulations.

The Dubai-based firm's shares were up 0.8 percent on Tuesday, after a 2 percent drop the day before.

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