Labor Rights for All the Workers in UAE

Abstract In UAE countries, there is a clear evidence and commitment to increase the existing legal structure to consent and enforce labor rights. To accomplish this, the managers are required to pay extra attention to the labor rights. This project is in twofold, one is to reflect the ongoing forces that pressurize the managers on matters concerning the labor rights, and second is to draw attention to the regime that is able and willing to defend the labor rights for all the workers in UAE. Introduction Almost all countries all over the world have unions which protect the worker’s right. However, in some countries such as UAE, the unions were banned and a legal law was reinforced to protect employees. In UAE, the outlined laws prevent unfair labor practices and protect the workers and their employers from having any conflicts whatsoever. The UAE Constitution and federal laws have guaranteed to check on the labor rights. The government has also created constant forces that enhance the pressure on human management officers to place greater emphasizes on the employee’s rights. To clearly understand the issues of labor rights, it is important to first of all understand the UAE’s legal system which includes its constitution and legislation (Dubai Regulatory Environment, 2009). The Constitution The UAE Constitution is the governing document and the leading source of power in the UAE lawful system that directs the Federal Government proceedings in the UAE. Its dictum on labor issues takes preference over almost all the other legal procedures. The constitution is very specific on the assertions of labor rights. For instance, the constitution recognizes the applicability of international standards. This is in accordance with Article 20, which upholds that the right of workers should be consistent with those outlined for advanced international standards. The legal system forbids any form of involuntary labor including slavery as stipulated in Article 34. Foreign workers are specifically recognized in Article 40. The constitution also asserts the right of any employee to file complaints as stipulated in Article 41, as well as specifying the courts as the main venues of such complaints (Labor rights in UAE, 2008). Federal Law In its history, the UAE has aggressively and progressively enforced many basic constitutional guidelines to govern labor relation and protect its nationals as well as expatriates alike. However, new challenges are putting more pressure on the amended bills involving the labor rights. The UAE spares no effort to modify the laws and accommodate new evolving rights for legal workers. Further, the ministry of labor has made labor-issue open to the public by welcoming suggestions on the draft law (Labor rights in UAE, 2008). International Conventions The UAE has endorsed several International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions to assert and guarantee workers’ rights. Other organizations ratified are two Arab Labor Organization conventions, number 18 and 19, involving the employment of the minority and labor inspection. Once ratified, these conventions will assume their place in the UAE constitution. The UAE commitment on labor rights is further demonstrated by the placing ministerial consultation offices concerned with international employment and the Gulf Forum on which is set to take care of the temporary contractual labor from January 2008. The two historical events were planned by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Arab Labor Organization, and International Labor Organization in collaboration with the council from Labor Ministry and Social Affairs of the GCC countries. In addition, the UAE has actively participated in several international forums dealing with accepted labor rights as well as holding conferences and meetings. In 2006 and 2007, the UAE signed a Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral cooperation with Asian countries including the republic of China, Thailand, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India. The purpose of the MoU was to prevent illegal recruitment agreements or unfair labor practices. UAE cooperation with Philippines and India was as a result of these two countries refusing to grant emigration permission to women under 25 and 30 years respectively, who wanted to work in the GCC. The order was therefore placed to protect them from any form of abuse. Federal Actions A number of reforms have been passed recently by the UAE Cabinet to combat abusive labor practices. These included; transfer rights by employees with employer compliance, creation of the bank trust fund assurance for workers compensation by the government, employers having no rights whatsoever to withhold worker’s passports. According to the Abu Dhabi government, licenses will be denied to those who fail to fully comply with the UAE laws. In addition, the UAE further created a mandatory employment contact in 2006 to prevent domestic workers from being exploited in terms of the salary, healthcare, working hours, and accommodation. The UAE has put forward plans to improve living conditions for workers. These will include new and modern residential cities for all workers. The first workers residential city was launched in mid-2006 in the Abu Dhabi Industrial Zone. Apart from accommodation, the residential city has a health care facility, shopping malls, leisure unit, waste disposal as well as 24-hour visa service. The health and safety of workers is a key issue which the government is pursuing. This policy, known as the midday break rule first launched in 2005 with an aim of protecting workers while on duty especially those in construction sectors from heat fatigue and also from being knocked down by heat during summer months. Employers are expected to follow this rule which prohibits outdoor working between 12:30 to 3:00 pm in summer. Employers, who fail to follow this order, are subject to be sanctioned and subjected to severe financial penalties (Building Towers, Cheating Workers, 2009).

Protection for foreign workers goes hand in hand with that of domestic workers. This was evidenced in November 2006 when the Abu Dhabi Vice President HH Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum issued directives to protect international workers. The directives shaped the federal laws approach for guest workers in terms of housing, inspection and treatment from arrival until they return to their native countries. In the Policy Agenda 2007-2008, the Abu Dhabi government has declared war with any manager within the state-run institutions who fails to comply with the Emirate’s dedication in enforcing UAE labor laws. Further, the same policy has enlightened the government officers to make labor law a standard clause in all Emirates’ tender contracts. The UAE has further demonstrated its concern to workers by establishing a comprehensive and compulsory insurance policy for the employees which is funded by their employers. The compulsory health care for private sector employees was initiated in 2008 countrywide. The Abu Dhabi government is also building three new hospitals to improve health care services for workers. In order to improve health services and respond to emergency cases faster, health facilities are being located near residential cities. It’s clear that, UAE has made health services a priority. In March 2007, the Emirate of Sharjah declared to offer better and healthier housing facilities for workers. In their policy, the non-compliance companies or organizations will be required to pay 50,000 dirhams ($13,600), and the fines will double in case they repeat the same mistake. The UAE further negotiated bilateral labor agreements with several nations which are large suppliers of workers to the Emirates. The objective of the agreement was to eliminate the brokers (middlemen) who act as labor recruiting agencies. These agencies have been exposed to exploit workers by exhorting exorbitant fee for visas. Such a practice in UAE is illegal because the law requires the employer to cater for the visa fee. However, it is very difficult to combat the problem since these agencies operates outside the country. In January 2008, the UAE held two international meeting whose main agenda was to find solutions to the labor market. In their first meeting, this was primarily attended by the council from the Labor Ministry and Asian countries aimed at solidifying reforms as well as the issue of recruitment. The parties agreed to put some offices in South Asian states so that the job seekers may learn about the fair working conditions in UAE as well as the federal laws. The second meeting, “Gulf Forum on Temporary Contractual Labor” was placed as a follow-up of the first meeting. The reached an agreement to enhance partnerships between the countries involved. The two countries, Philippines and India, have placed a pilot project as a follow-up to alleviate the condition of migrant workers. The project helps workers throughout their carrier from the time they are recruited, during the working period and finally, facilitate smooth return to their home country. The two-year project aims at being a model to other nations especially those involved in exporting laborers to UAE.

In addition, those countries participating in the meetings are expected to benefit in terms of development and from lessons shared. Enforcement The protocol of enforcement is crucial when it comes to matters of protecting the rights of workers. Its main objective is to ensure a fair and timely payment of employees. The ministry if Labor is required by the Abu Dhabi government to provide audited statements indicating that salaries have been paid in time. To solidify the order the UAE penalized several businesses in 2007 due to unpaid wages cases. Further in the same year, the Labor Ministry suspended 1,300 permits from institutions who delayed to pay workers. On the same note, 545 institutions were temporary closed down as a result nonpayment of wages. On the other hand, the government collaborated with some institutions in providing a 20% pay increment for workers. The number of inspectors involved in labor has been increased, and a 24-hour toll-free hotline introduced to allow workers to report complaints at any time. Workers can now transfer to other employers with ease. As a result 35% workers changed their jobs in 2006, whereas 95,000 others legalized their working and living status under the amnesty program. The ministry of Labor is also speeding settlement of labor dispute. Several offices have been located in Dubai and Abu Dhabi courts to facilitate the dispute resolution. According to statistics, there has been a plethora of cases in courts against employers who hold back wages and those who withhold the employee’s documents who want to change employment. The Labor Ministry is also investigating the working conditions by visiting the worksites. The institutions which violate the federal law are charged in courts. Conclusion The UAE has played a major role in expanding the capacity to enforce labor laws as well as protect the rights of workers. However, according to expatriates there is much more to be done. The current situation needs to be viewed in a framework by interested parties. The UAE is committed to its legal framework concerning the workers and preserving its national identity as well as protect those who work in the Emirates. In general, the Abu Dhabi government continues to administer the labor rights to an international labor standard and the private segments understands that the labor regulation must strictly be upheld. The UAE looks forward to be a role model internationally by harmonizing these components.

References

Building Towers, Cheating Workers. (2009). Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in the United Arab Emirates. Web.

Dubai Regulatory Environment. (2009). Web.

Labor rights in UAE. (2008). Web.

The Protection of the Rights of Workers in the United Arab Emirates, Annual Report. (2007). UAE Ministry of Labor. Web.