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Indian workers dig their heels in

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MOUNDS OF PROBLEMS: Asian workers at a project in Dubai in this file photo.
MOUNDS OF PROBLEMS: Asian workers at a project in Dubai in this file photo.

Atul Aneja

Negotiations going on with UAE company on the quantum of salary increase

DUBAI: For the first time, nearly 40,000 construction workers, a majority of whom are Indians, are on strike demanding a pay hike and better working conditions. The workers belong to the well-known Dubai construction company, Arabtec.

The company is associated with ongoing high profile construction projects including Burj Dubai, which on completion would be the tallest building in the world. The workers, 60 per cent of whom are Indians, are on strike since November 1. They are demanding a pay hike of Dirham 200 (Rs. 2,000). The strike has hit all the 36 labour camps run by the company throughout the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to diplomatic sources, negotiations are going on with the focus on the quantum of salary increase. There are indications that the company is inclined to raise salaries by Dirham 100 (Rs.1,000). A final response from the striking employees is still awaited. Strikes are illegal in the UAE. Dubai has been hit by a number of strikes, including the one last month where a section of around 2,000 agitating workers of a Dubai-based construction company turned violent.

According to sources, the modus operandi under which contracts are signed, especially in economic free zones, might require rectification. In several cases, workers sign contracts written in Arabic — a language with which they may not be familiar. Consequently, they become parties to binding contracts without understanding its full implications. Besides, these contracts bypass scrutiny both by the UAE Ministry of Labour and the Indian embassy or consulate.

Aware of the situation, the UAE Cabinet recently urged construction companies to review salaries for blue collar workers. According to the official news agency WAM, the Cabinet has asked construction companies to issue new proposals on salaries “as a matter of urgency”.


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