Sunday, April 24, 2005

UAE Labor Roundup - Khaleej Times

[Emphasis added.]

Item 1a: Labor Minister: UAE "heading for a demographic collapse" as the expat labour force continues to balloon leaving UAE nationals far behind is to be taken seriously. A team of experts must be formed to study this peculiar and dangerous problem confronting the country and draw up a strategy that will ensure a slow but steady reduction in the growing foreign blue collar workforce.

Item 1b: The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will soon come up with a mechanism which would facilitate smooth labour transaction and cut down on procedural delays involving Immigration and Residence authorities.

Item 2a: Health authorities in Abu Dhabi came under fire by employees of a government department who accused them of discriminating between national and non-national employees in rendering health services. The employees were angered by the authorities’ decision to exclude expatriate employees from a free cholesterol testing offered only to nationals. The medical check-up included blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol testing. While expatriates were entitled to undergo testing for blood pressure and diabetes only, national employees were allowed to avail of all three tests.

Whew. Give one group a 25% pay increase and another group 15% based on nationality, and you stir up some anger.

Item 2b: Labour authorities here have warned foreign companies that transferring staff from one branch to another in a different emirate was not permissible unless certain conditions were complied with. “Shifting employees from one branch of a foreign company to another will not be considered as an internal procedure. It requires sponsorship transfer or temporary work permit,” source in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs told Khaleej Times yesterday. “If a Ministry Inspector arrests an employee whose visa is for a branch in an emirate other than the one he is working for, he will charged with violating Labour Laws and will be held accountable for working with sponsors other than his,” the official warned. The official clarified that transfer of staff would be dealt with as an internal administrative procedure only in cases where the company is owned by a national.

Thus, not only are there interfirm job mobility restrictions for non nationals, we now learn there are intrafirm job mobility restrictions. I wonder if these restrictions reveal a lot about local politics, and the kind of confederation the United Arab Emirates are living into.

Item 3a: Labour disputes between locals ‘rare’.

Disputes between nationals are probably rare because if contracts are violated, nationals can more readily and costlessly pursue enforcement. Thus, their contracts are less likely to be violated in the first instance.

Item 3b: A group of 49 labourers from a construction company staged a sit-in strike at RAK Labour Department (RLD) yesterday, complaining against pending salaries and other accumulated dues over the last several months. The workers alleged that the company did not pay them their salaries for several months, besides forcing them, in blatant violation of labour laws and regulations, to pay residency and work permit fees.

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