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Sun 26 May 2013 02:01 PM

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Rights group urges UAE not to deport strikers

Overseas labourers at builder Arabtec went on strike last week seeking higher pay

Rights group urges UAE not to deport strikers
The Arabtec logo at one of the firms labour camps in Dubai

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.

Sam from Canada 6 years ago

HRW yettt again talking out of their ........

As an employer if I have a Contract with laborers, and they need to fulfil it. If not, they can go back and a million others are more than eager to leave their homelands for the same Agreement to come and work for me. So, why should I up their salary - I am running a business - not a charity.

Charlie Orbe 6 years ago

HRW should not dictate what law to follow in a particular country and stop the grandstanding. HRW loss moral basis to exist since they are interfering in the laws of other countries.

As an expat working outside home countries, they should know and abide with their work contract. That is the only way to work. There are always remedies within the contract to settle disputes.

In case the workers violated the law of the country, if the law call for deportation, then the workers shall be deported.

John 6 years ago

Sam - such arrogance is slightly embarrassing! Have some empathy and morals.

DNS 6 years ago

Really Sam? I'd suggest Canadians and our other western nationalities to work in their countries for less than a minimum wage and in fairly extreme conditions.. Even better still, fly to Dubai and work there for less than couple of hundred dollars per MONTH.. Then you might comprehend the issue at hand here..

As for the 'millions eager to leave their homeland', yes, many of them are duped.. as in, they are not aware of the living conditions and that they will be earning less than the amount stipulated in the agreement.. They wouldn't leave their homes to work elsewhere for pathetic salaries would they? Why should nationals from third world countries suffer for no fault of theirs? And believe me, the retention of passports by employers is still in place..

procan 6 years ago

Sam are taking about here in Canada, or a Middle East slave state? As you know Canada has labour Law. The Middle East prefer the Whip on there slaves.

Farhan Al-Ani 6 years ago

Well, Arabtec is correct to deport the trouble makers, otherwise the door will be open wide to further strikes that UAE can not afford.
The contract between employers and employees are written and agreed in advance so what are the excuses of employees to strike and cause mayhem?
I say deport the trouble makers and replace with workers that appreciate having a job and being paid to feed themselves and their families abroad.
well done Arabtec and do not open the doors or negotiate with this kind of revolt of the ungrateful few. It is up to Arabtec to up salaries and not be held to ransom by their employees.

jonjon 6 years ago

i agree with sam, all the wage info is presented in the contract the problem is that a lot of people come over there with high hope and big dreams without having a realistic goal. instead of protesting after they should do it beforehand and demand higher salaries prior to signing the contract. the other problem is that these recruitment agencies which are run by their own country men are scam artists and sell big dreams which are further then the truth.

ian 6 years ago


Would this be your response if you were running a business in Canada??????

Typical Canadian double standards!

nastyrunner 6 years ago

When a person is in a good position, he sure thinks the world revolves in his direction. The day your fired Charlie, I am sure, you would be whining 10 times more than this. Try and understand the situation, they wouldn't have done it if things got to worst. Maybe their way was wrong, but there must be a reason.

Hisham 6 years ago

I would suggest that HRW, instead of focusing on a country where a company expects people to hold up their end of a contract, focuses on Indian legislation instead. Even if we disregard the fact that there are tens, if not hundreds of millions dying to take their position, we all know (and it has been exposed by independent documentary makers time and time again) it's the Indian middle man doing the dirt in these cases where people are promised what they are not given. Let them control those sharks and there won't be any problems. If Indians won't do the job, there are about 1 billion people across Africa and Asia willing to work. Now they can go back and enjoy the "great working" conditions in factories back home, IF they can find any jobs. If you think the working conditions are horrible anywhere in the world, you've apparently never seen shipyards, scrapyards, manufacturing "facilities" and the steel industry in India.