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Thu 28 Feb 2008 02:07 PM

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Dubai labourers strike over pay

S.S. Lootah Contracting employees demand paid annual leave, annual tickets home and 30% pay rise.

Dubai labourers strike over pay
LABOUR STRIKE: Up to 300 labourers have refused to leave their accommodation in Sonapur and Sharjah. (Getty Images)

Hundreds of labourers went on strike in Dubai on Wednesday demanding a 30% pay hike, the latest in a series of protests against Gulf construction companies.

Up to 300 employees of Dubai-based S.S. Lootah Contracting have refused to leave their accommodation in Sonapur and Sharjah until they receive 45 days' paid annual leave, annual tickets home and a 30% pay rise, UAE daily Gulf News reported on Thursday.

The labourers said in a letter that S.S. Lootah Contracting, a general contracting firm, has refused to increase their salaries in view of the rising cost of living, despite several requests, according to the newspaper.

Rashid Lootah, executive director of S.S. Lootah Contracting, slammed the striking workers, saying their actions were illegal.

“The company has not defaulted in its timely payment of wages to our labourers in its 50-year history. The facilities at our camps meet all the statutory guidelines set by the Ministry of Labour. We also scrutinise all our subcontractors to make sure that they do not violate any of our labour ethics,” Lootah said in a statement.

The Dubai industrial action follows an announcement from Bahrain’s Labour Ministry on Wednesday that striking foreign labourers will now be immediately deported.

Labour Ministry Under-Secretary Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said new visas to replace the deported workers will be granted to their employers to ensure work is not disrupted.

Al Khalifa also said the government had no plans to introduce a minimum wage policy for expatriate labourers, Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News reported on Thursday.

He was speaking at the first meeting of a committee established to address the recent spate of Bahrain strikes by expatriate construction workers.

Labourers from 10 construction companies went on strike in February, demanding better pay and living conditions, the newspaper said.

Al Khalifa blamed the strikes on the announcement by the Indian government of a new 100 Bahrani dinars ($226.3) minimum wage for unskilled workers, saying labourers had “misunderstood” the new rules.

India announced last month that it would not allow its unskilled workers to migrate to Bahrain unless they had a contract stipulating the minimum wage. The law was due to come into force on March 1, but is now reportedly under review.

The GCC countries have hosted a series of protests by disgruntled workers during the past year, the most high-profile of which saw thousands of Arabtec labourers working on the Burj Dubai refuse to work for almost two weeks.

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Skand Bhargava 12 years ago

In our payroll package (PPR2000) there is a flexibility of entering number of days paid leave per year. So far I have seen customers entering 30/years or 22.5/year (45 in 2 years). But ZERO is something new for me - and I have seen it now in quite a number of companies. Skand Bhargava PPR2000 - Personnel & Payroll System http://www.softoolsme.com

sak 12 years ago

Its such a shame that Bahrain is exploiting its expats, whether they be laborers or white collar workers. Although UAE has done quite a lot for the labor class Bahrainis are affecting and influencing the entire GCC. Imagine if all the expat workers leave the country? And its not that Bahrain or UAE don't have money they can spend money on all sorts of personal pleasures but not on their fellow brothers. Why can't these laborers be paid better when all these construction companies and landlords are minting money like there is no tomorrow. They will take it with them to grave? GOD is watching and lest they forget, taking care of fellow humans is one of the bigger deeds in Islam, if one hurts their fellow being he will be punished.

Saeed Al Ahmed 12 years ago

Bahrain has been saying that if the subcontinent workers Protest let us bring Vietnamese and from far flung villages in Vietnam. I would like to remind those people who decided this - they are living in a fool's paradise. Wherever you bring this people from they need to live in Bahrain and they will ultimately protest because they will not be able to live the standard of life they had in their villages - that is to have 4 meals and a home to live in. Bringing cheap workers does not bring the cost of the work down, decision making fools should understand in order to get the benefit we need to take the work to cheap places and not do vice versa. And construction can never be done that way or else China would have been making our skyscrapers and shipping them to Bahrain...