By James Exelby
Number of cases filed in H1 2008 doubles, with employees two-thirds of litigants.
A record number of middle-class expatriate workers are winning court cases in the UAE against employers who withhold salaries and refuse to issue the "no objection certificates" (NOCs) that enable people to change jobs, the UAE daily The National reported on Wednesday.
The number of cases filed with the Dubai Courts labour-cases section in the first half of this year had increased 111.7 percent compared with the same period last year, according to Mualla Al-Hashmi, a senior preliminary court official in the section,the paper said.
Up to 1,408 cases had been filed this year, compared with 665 between January and July 2007, and the number was expected to rise significantly.
"We have had a record number of litigations for this year so far and the number is set to increase," the paper quoted Ommar Bassi, another court official as saying.
He said that 35 percent of the increase in litigation was accounted for by companies and 65 percent by employees. Only two percent of cases filed by companies were successful, he added.
"New people come here to secure jobs and now they are aware of what their rights are, especially expatriates who are on a middle-class income," he said.
The number of companies taking their staff to court had also grown, "to prevent them from leaving the company", said Mr Bassir.
Up to 35 percent of all labour cases were filed by companies who wanted to protect their trade secrets and intellectual rights, he said.
The paper also quoted Judge Abdul Qader Moosa Mohammed as saying tha there had also been an increase in labour disputes in the past couple of years. The head of preliminary Labour Court attributed the trend to Dubai’s growth, the paper said.
This is a good development and an essential part of the "growing up" of the labour market place. Besides bringing fairness in the system of employment, this will also clean up the present mind-set of certain type of employers. It is bound to improve the overall efficiency and skills of managing a labour force within every company.
There are still companies out there that treat their employees as if they own them, i am in the process of trying to employ someone who can't get his passport back from his syrian employee until he proves he is leaving the country, although they won't pay him his last month's salary. I thought it was illegal to hold an employees passport these days. No wonder he wants to leave if he is treated like this, it's about time people treated there employees as humans and work colleagues instead of slaves.
When forming unions are not allowed in the UAE, workers rely heavily on the courts to make fair and reasonable judgements. Moreover, it is important to have a free legal advise resource where you can learn about your rights, and get legal assistance. Most people whose rights are being violated do not have the money, nor time to even look into whether or not what their employer is doing is legal. from my own experience with seeking legal advice, I must say the system is improving, and hopefully we will be able to eradicate the labour law violations by sending a clear message to employers that the days of the legal grey zones are numbered.