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Sat 17 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

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A positive side of HR

Why labour relations should mean more than staff disputes and fights over pay.

It hasn't been that long since the fresh winds of ‘employee relations' blew through the offices of companies around the world, heralding the shape of things to come.

If I cast my mind back to my own earliest experience of working for a company that had a function with the sole purpose of maintaining good relations between management and staff, it was the early 1990s.

Back then it was known as ‘personnel management' and seemed to be limited to ensuring that the company had the number of staff it needed to do the job and that they were paid, and hopefully on time.

The function has not only evolved to be called names such as ‘human resources', but it now deals with everything from recruitment and pay to organising team-bonding sessions and dealing with staff disputes.

Up until now, reports on how contractors in the Middle East relate to their staff have mainly dealt with the darker side of non-payment of wages, substandard health and safety practices and squalid labour camps.

But as the example of Al Futtaim Carillion suggests, there are some good things going on behind the scenes, and this doesn't stop at simply ensuring the basic needs of staff are met.

During 30 years of trading in the region, the company has managed to avert staff uprising by not only paying them on time, but by providing them with a clean, safe and healthy place to live, three meals a day and going that extra mile to tackle issues such as depression.

Unlike the good old days, contractors can no longer be complacent about sourcing labourers from traditional markets such as India, especially now that they have the option of working for their own burgeoning construction industries.

So they have to up their game when it comes to providing an environment that will not only make people want to come and work for them, but will ensure they stay for the duration of a project.

Let's just hope that message sinks in across the region, and we won't be hearing about any more cases of ‘employee relations' being handled with a plank of wood.

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Akbar 12 years ago

unfortunately dubai has the lowest level of labour relations mainly in the region of salary payments on time and other issues.A mechanism to ensure this is a must...

Deepu K Nair 12 years ago

Since 3 years I am working with a MNC and the company was provided to the staff a better facility for accommodation by a cutting of consolidated amount as rent. But, nowadays the company is reducing their facilities to the staff (Europeans are exempted). So that I am staying in a private accommodation with a lesser rent and good facilities.