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Sun 4 Nov 2007 06:17 PM

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Labourer pay under urgent review

UAE calls for review of construction workers' salaries following spate of high-profile demonstrations.

Labourer pay under urgent review
Thousands of labourers working at the Burj Dubai went on strike last week over living conditions and transport services.

The UAE has called for an urgent review of construction workers’ salaries following a spate of high-profile protests that have focused worldwide attention on the plight of labourers in the Emirates.

The UAE Cabinet on Sunday ordered the Ministry of Labour to work with contractors to prepare proposals on the issue of construction workers' salaries, ministry Under-Secretary Humaid bin Deemas said, quoted state news agency Wam.

It is common for construction workers in the UAE to can make as little as 500 dirhams ($136) a month.

The cabinet also directed the ministry to draw up a set of standards for worker accommodation to cover all industry sectors, which it stressed should be strictly enforced nationwide, Deemas said.

Pay and conditions in the UAE construction industry made international headlines last month following a violent protest by employees of a local contractor.

Workers, many of them Indian, took to the streets demanding of better pay, housing and transport services.

The demonstration turned violent when police tried to stop them blocking off a road in the Jebel Ali area of Dubai, with some workers hurling stones at police and passing motorists.

The labour ministry has said it will deport those involved in the protest and stressed any repeat of such incidents will not be tolerated.

Then just days later thousands of labourers working at the site of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, went on strike over living conditions and transport services, refusing to leave their accommodation.

The labourers, employees of Dubai’s largest construction company Arabtec, had agreed to go back to work as of Friday following a site visit by officials from the labour ministry, Dubai police and an Indian consular representative, Wam reported.

Deemas said on Sunday the labour ministry has been following the protests with “deep concern” and is dealing with the issue.

Deemas said the ministry is determined to eradicate the practice of withholding workers’ wages, labelling it an unacceptable and illegal form of exploitation.

He said the ministry also planned to intensify inspections of workers' accommodation complexes, admitting some of the housing facilities are sub-standard and do not meet UAE regulations.

The US, which is negotiating a free trade pact with the UAE, is pressing the Gulf Arab state to apply international standards to its workforce.

While the UAE has vowed to punish firms that do not pay employees on time or force them to live or work in poor conditions, labour unions remain illegal and protests can often end in deportation.

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