Rights group urges UAE not to deport strikers

Overseas labourers at builder Arabtec went on strike last week seeking higher pay
The Arabtec logo at one of the firms labour camps in Dubai
By Daniel Shane
Sun 26 May 2013 02:01 PM

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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