UAE considers trade unions

Labour officials to meet with GCC delegates early next year to discuss issues around forming unions.
UAE considers trade unions
By Joel Bowman
Tue 27 Nov 2007 10:37 AM

The UAE will meet with other Gulf nations early next year to discuss issues surrounding the formation of trade unions following a number of high profile strikes at construction sites in Dubai that have cast worldwide attention on the plight of labourers working in the emirate.

A delegation from the Ministry of Labour has been invited to attend a workshop in January where GCC member states will examine the challenges and implications of setting up workers' unions in the Gulf, UAE daily Khaleej Times reported on Tuesday.

The workshop comes after a number of meetings between GCC labour ministers regarding labour laws and workers' rights, discussions that have included the controversial proposal to cap how long unskilled labourers can work in any one Gulf country.

According to Khaleej Times, discussions will include looking at the role unions can play in educating workers about their rights and how to legally vent their grievances.

Any move by the UAE to allow trade unions would be seen as a significant step in modernising its labour laws.

Strikes and trade unions are currently illegal in the Emirates, as well as in Saudi Arabia and Oman. Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait do allow the formation of trade unions to varying degrees.

If the UAE does opt to allow unions it will being hoping the move will prevent any repeat of the strikes that have focused international attention on the state of the Emirates' labour laws.

The highest profile incident involved a standoff between 40,000 labourers working for the UAE's largest construction company Arabtec, 3,000 of which were employed on the Burj Dubai.

Skilled and unskilled labourers laid down their tools last month, refusing to return to work unless their demands of a $55 pay raise was met. Unable to form a union, the group of largely Indian expatriate workers was represented by the Indian consulate.

Workers cited the rising cost in living due, in part, to the weakening purchasing power of the dirham, and poor working conditions as the reason for their strike.

Contractors agreed to a 20% wage hike, but only after a deadlock lasting more than a week raised the cost of building the final ten floors of the Burj by 1%.

For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.