Rights group urges UAE not to deport strikers

Overseas labourers at builder Arabtec went on strike last week seeking higher pay

The UAE’s Ministry of Labour has been urged not to deport construction workers who staged a rare strike in the Gulf state last week.

Thousands of overseas employees at Dubai-based builder Arabtec stayed away from work starting from last weekend until Wednesday, as they reportedly sought a pay rise of AED350 ($95) each per month.

Following the strike, a number of media outlets have claimed that 43 of the workers have been hit with deportation orders. Both strikes and trade unions are banned in the oil-rich country, which is home to millions of foreign workers.

“The UAE authorities should be investigating whether local employers have violated the law, not penalising poorly paid and unprotected workers,” said Sarah Leah, Middle East director at lobbyist group Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement.

HRW said that 70 overseas employees of Arabtec were deported from the country following similar industrial action in early 2011.

In regard to the latest strike, Arabtec claimed that it was caused by “a minority group who will be held accountable for their actions”, without giving further details.

Arabtec was among the contractors that built Dubai's palm-shaped island projects and the world's tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa.

Dubai Police chief Dahi Khalfan said 200 workers had said they no longer wanted to work for Arabtec and asked to be repatriated.

"The police doesn't interfere with company matters but the workers don't want to work and they asked to leave," Khalfan told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai.

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Posted by: Navin

Organizations like HRW, Green peace, ILO, UNHCR are so self serving that it is amazing they still exist! they spend 60/70 percent of their budgets (meant for social charitable and humanitarian causes) on paying the salaries of their western expat employees who go around muttering platitudes for people that they could not care less about as long as they have their UN flagged Land Cruisers and villas in luxurious compounds, HYPOCRITES!

Posted by: truth

The entire gulf region is over employing cheap labor!

I was on a trip to London and it took about 4 British natives 1 day to rebuild a road in front of my hotel.

It usually take weeks and an army of labor for the same task in the gulf.

No wonder we get shoddy work, over budget and over schedule with an army of workers from South Asia. of workers from South Asia.

Posted by: truth


like the saudi council of engineers who detected thousands of fake engineering degrees, the bulk of which came from south asia and other corrupt arab countries.

or how some major construction companies with multi billion projects without any saudi or gcc partners have been operating for the past 3 decades with clear multiple violations of local and international laws. they would get a permit for one project but instead work on multiple projects in a web of sub contracting.

Posted by: kingkaiser

Yeah, blame the poor guys who are being directed (and be sure to throw race into it, even if they dont control the outcome), not the incompetents up top, who usually get paid more if there are delays...I'm sure that all the delays in real estate here are due to those scheming construction workers, NOT the owners of the firms who spent all the cash and are benefited by not building at all.

Btw: you're blind if you dont think cost overruns and delays happen anywhere else, especially in the arab world where they dont import labor.

Posted by: SAM

Does not "A plea for not deporting them" mean that they are better off where they are now, working at their salaries per contract? Personally I think their wages are quite low, but solving this matter by ignoring contract law, the concept of supply and demand and business ethics is not the right way. I do hope that the government would pass a law that sets minimum wage at a higher rate, which would at least provide labour with more than just subsistence.

Posted by: Steve

I'm no expert, but I think the problem lies in the fact that these guys are so cheap and the contractors that use them are so liberal in their recruitment of them for that very reason. They then do nothing to develop them or make them any better than two arms that can very inefficiently work a shovel.

I think if you recruited 1/4 of the people, got them to work 4 times harder (have you seen them on these building sites??), trained them to work efficiently, for 4 times the salary then you'd have a happier, more motivated workforce and I also think you may also get these guys to have a tiny bit of pride in their work.

This is no critism of the workers, I'd do the same. Pay me poor money to stand around and maybe dig a hole every now and again and I'll do it slowly and badly.

Not sure if its the same in India/ Pakistan, but in the west whilst builders do have a reputation for being lazy, if you look at a building site typically everyone is doing something productive!

Posted by: jake

I think this is a great way to apply for the EXPO 2020! After all it shows how progressive and future orientated we are over here. Don't start scratching the shiny surface.

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