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Sat 3 Apr 2004 04:00 AM

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Work may suffer due to stance taken by Ministry on visa rules

Contracts signed abroad between UAE-based firms and foreign workers will no longer be honoured as Ministry gets tough

The UAE Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will not honour the labour contracts signed abroad between a UAE-based establishment and foreign workers, according to a circular issued last week by Dr Khalid Al Khazraji, under-secretary for Labour Affairs. The move, which is unpopular within the construction sector, could affect standards of work according to industry insiders.

A letter of offer will replace the foreign contract, according to Tariq bin Deemas, director of the Employment Licencing Department of the ministry. He said that companies and recruitment agencies who issued contracts accepted by the ministry now need a local contract and a foreign contract between the agency or establishment and the expatriate employee.

“A few years ago, we stopped the foreign contracts which used to be sent to the recruited employees in their home countries. However, recently we noticed that some establishments started concluding foreign labour contracts, so we decided to introduce a uniform model of a ‘letter of offer’ that can be sent to the worker in his home country after the company recruiting him issue him the work permit,” bin Deemas said.

He added that the ministry could endorse this letter or certificate if the employer or the employee opt to, but it is not compulsory to do so.

“Such a letter is needed by the employee recruited from abroad to furnish to the parties concerned and to prove that he has employment in the UAE. It testifies that the establishment in question has issued a work permit to the employee whose name, nationality, passport number and other details are included in the certificate. It also mentions clearly the type of job the employee will perform and the basic salary he will get,” explained bin Deemas.

In some cases the introduction of the new system has affected the number of visa’s given to potential Indian employees. This has led certain construction firms to look elsewhere for less-skilled workers.

“The new requirement means that the Ministry has reduced the number of visa’s they issue to Indian workers so construction companies are looking to Bangladesh and Nepal to recruit workers,” said Sohail Vakil, recruitment manager, Al Vakil Recruitment. “If firms apply for 10 visa’s for Indian labourers they may get six but will have to look to other countries with less skilled workers for the rest of their allocation. The big companies will be fine but it will impact small construction companies and standards of work will probably be affected,” he added.

Such a move favours the employees who are offered larger salaries in their home countries and when they reach the UAE they discover that their labour contracts deprive them of many benefits stated in the contracts they signed abroad. The new legislation also supports the introduction of a uniform ‘whom it may concern’ certificate for the use within the UAE.

The internal certificate is to be issued by companies to certify that a particular employee is working for them. It also includes the name, nationality, passport number and basic salary of the employee and is usually furnished to banks and government departments.

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