NEWS FROM THE U.A.E.
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Holding employees’ passports illegal
DUBAI — 13 May:The Dubai Court of Appeal has ruled that holding of employees’ passports by employers in the UAE is illegal. The ruling is based on the fact that the passport is a personal property of an individual and that have no right to keep the passports of employees in their custody.
The Dubai court gave the judgment in favour of Indian national Xavier who worked for the Arabian Manpower Recruiting Company. Last week, the court had upheld the verdict of the Dubai Court of First Instance and ordered that the Arabian Manpower Recruiting Company release the passport of the employee.
The 30-year-old Xavier, who is an aeronautical engineer, arrived in the UAE and joined the company in March 2004 as a recruitment consultant. The company did not pay him his salary on time, so he submitted his resignation to the company several times. Unable to support himself with his low salary, which was not paid regularly, Xavier filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and agreed to cancel his visa and labour card without taking any dues.
The company told him that they would give him his passport once he boarded a plane to leave the UAE. The engineer purchased a non-refundable ticket for Dh650 from the Air India Express, went to the airport and waited until 3am, but the company officials did not show up with his passport.
Xavier approached advocate Shamsuddin Karunagappally from Al Cabban Advocate and Consultancy, who filed a lawsuit on October 2005 at the Dubai Civil Court against the sponsor at the Court of First Instance, which gave a judgment in favour of the employer.
The sponsor filed an appeal on the allegations of misappropriation and misuse of company money to the tune of Dh300,000. The defence lawyer managed to convince the court that this financial matter was not the subject of holding the employee’s passport. If that was the case, company officials should have approached police stations to lodge a complaint which they failed to do. As a result, there is every reason to suspect the sponsor’s allegation, the lawyer argued.
Advocate Shamsuddin noted that the employees should give their passports to the employer only for completion of visa formalities, following which the passport must be handed back to the employee once the formalities are carried out. “Refusing to return the passport is illegal. The employer has no right to hold it. The UAE courts have always ruled that a worker has the right to recover his or her passport from the employer anytime. And that the employer has no right to retain an employee’s passport,” he said.
According to international law, a passport is a travel document. It is a government’s assurance to other governments that the holder is a citizen of the country and may be extended the usual courtesies and assistance accorded to international travellers. However, a circular issued on December 25, 2002, by Lieutenant-General Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, now the Minister of Interior, who was then a major-general and serving as under-secretary at the ministry, says: “A passport is a personal document that proves the identity of the holder, and the laws stipulate that the bearer must keep his or her passport and present it to the authorities upon request.”
It was a directive to all departments that anyone keeping the passport of any resident in the country without a court order does that in violation of the law. “The only party allowed to hold the passport is the judicial authority, or in cases specified by law,” he says.
According to a directive issued by the labour ministry: “An employer can keep the passports of his workers for administrative reasons or formalities required by authorities.” It adds: “However, an employer may not refuse to release a worker’s passport if he or she demands it. An employer must not use a passport to hinder a worker’s movement.”
Although the practice of retaining the passport of an employee is illegal, all ministries, including the Interior Ministry, Labour and Social Affairs, Finance and Industry, hold the passports of expatriate staff, it is learnt.
Shamsuddin said that the UAE should review and reassess the sponsorship system. “It mars the image of the country.”
Justifying the reason for holding employees’ passports in the UAE, Abu Mazin, Director of Orient Company in Dubai, said: “We are required to provide either labour cards or passports of our employees whenever the labour ministry inspectors come by to check. The passports of employees are kept in a safe place, because if the employees are allowed to keep their passports, there is always a risk of them being lost or stolen."
Khaled Ibrahim Khadem, an official at the immigration office in the court, said: “If an employer refuses to return a worker’s passport, the employee can complain to the legal authorities who will help get the passport back or refer the case to the prosecution, which will move the case to the court, which usually orders the employer to return the worker’s passport.”
For any worker, the passport is important, particularly when disputes arise with employers. It was found that in many cases, when workers complain against their employers, the employers use workers’ passports to put pressure on them. They only need to contact the immigration office which will order the company to return the passport, Khadem pointed out.
Traffic accident deaths in capital drop by 25pc
ABU DHABI — 13 May: Rates of deaths as a result of traffic accidents in Abu Dhabi and its environs during the first quarter this year dropped to 36 from 48 in the contrasting period last year, down by 25 per cent, according to Colonel Ghaith Hassan Al Za’abi, Director of Traffic and Patrols Department at the Abu Dhabi Police General Directorate.
He underlined the continuing efforts being exerted to reduce the rate of traffic accidents, which claim human lives and inflict material losses, by enhancing the sense of awareness of the road users, intensifying the awareness programmes and cracking down on violators of traffic rules.
Other measures the department feels are necessary to bring down road accidents are an expansion in implementing the modern electronic control systems to curb behaviours and attitudes that cause the occurrence of traffic accidents, he noted. He ascribed the occurrence of most serious and horrific traffic accidents to the non-adherence of some motorists to the traffic rules and regulations. Therefore, he said, we are convinced that inculcating a sense of adherence to the appropriate traffic rules will curb serious traffic incidents and make the roads much safer.
He pointed in this context to the ongoing efforts made by the Ministry of Interior in studying the position of the vehicular traffic by charting out the draft law of the new fines, which increases the fines levied on traffic offenders and introducing the demerit black points system. The Abu Dhabi Traffic Department has registered a 25 per cent fall in the rates of deaths in the first four months this year compared with the same period last year, Colonel Za’abi recalled.
Citing figures released by the department, he said the number of deaths as a result of traffic accidents fell from 12 to 9 in the capital, and 27 to 17 at the Al Mafraq Traffic Department, a decline of 37 per cent. In the Al Khazna Traffic Department, deaths fell from two cases to only one over the first quarter this year, while fatalities registered at the Al Rahba Traffic Department rose from 5 to 9. No deaths as a result of traffic acccidents were reported and registered at Delma Traffic Department over the last four months, compared with two cases in the last year.
Colonel Za’abi said the sudden veering off by motorists while changing lanes still top the list of causes leading to accidents in the capital and suburbs over the last four months. The accidents which took place as a result of the car drivers jumping the red light signal constituted 13 per cent, while accidents in which pedestrians were hit by cars constituted 15 per cent in 2005, falling to 13 per cent over the last four months this year, he added.
Licensed liquor stores lose out to bootleggers
Abu Dhabi: 13 May:Licensed liquor stores in Abu Dhabi are losing thousands of dirhams a week to illegal alcohol traders smuggling alcohol from the Northern Emirates, Gulf News has learnt.
According to sources, unlicensed private traders are buying alcohol in licensed stores in other emirates and then running the gauntlet with police teams on the Emirates Road to sell the liquor to private buyers in Abu Dhabi.
"The business is suffering terribly. It is difficult to compete with the illegal traders," said Radha Krishnan, supervisor at African and Eastern Liquor Shop in Mussafah.
Krishnan claims cheap Indian whiskey is a particular favourite with the traders because there is a high demand for it among low wage owners in Abu Dhabi.
"They buy bottles in crates and undercut our prices by Dh5 or Dh6. Anyone prepared to take the risk is going to buy at such low prices," he said.
The manager of another popular licensed store said he had personally witnessed a large consignment of whiskey arrive by truck in the Mussafah industrial zone.
"Men took the liquor in crates of the truck at night and buried it in the sand in an isolated spot. Then they informed the buyer," said the source, requesting anonymity.
Krishnan reports that because the consumption of alcohol is a sensitive topic even licensed outlets are afraid of putting pressure on police. "The authorities do a good job in checking our permits regularly but we don't like talking too much about the illegal trade because alcohol is a sensitive topic."
According to Abu Dhabi police, the "ongoing police campaign" along the Emirates Road regularly catches traders.
Burj cranes of Dubai
Dubai: 13 May: Dubai's skyline is expanding and climbing higher virtually every day. Wherever you look there is one familiar sight: a crane hanging over the horizon.
According to statistics available, about 125,000 tower cranes are operating worldwide. Industry experts cautiously estimate that 15 to 25 per cent of the world's cranes are here. (See top right for picture gallery)
Patrick Mullaney, Tower Crane Operations Manager for Select Plant Gulf, the heavy machinery arm of Al Naboodah Laing O'Rourke, arrived in Dubai three years ago to work on the new airport site.
On arrival he approached the Guinness Book of World Records to enter Dubai for the high number of cranes on the site at the time. "There were 50 cranes, all over the 12-tonne capacity. It's the most we've had at the site and we are just one contractor. We tried to get it in the Guinness Book of World Records, but they weren't that interested," said Mullaney.
Tower cranes used to build skyscrapers are put up in two days on average. "The tallest free standing crane we used was at Ski Dubai, which measured 92.5 metres," said Mullaney.
The crane at Burj Dubai will eventually be 750 metres above ground level. Laing O'Rourke is currently working on four big projects Dubai airport, Festival city, Burj Dubai and the Old Town and Atlantis hotel on Palm Island.
The construction boom in Dubai is very fast paced due to the overwhelming workforce and building around the clock. "At the most, we as a contractor had about 11,000 men working at the airport. Sites are just flooded with workers," said Mullaney.
"Tower cranes help the whole site. You can't do without them. Mobile cranes are limited because you keep having to move them. Tower cranes can be placed closer together and have a radius of about 140 square metres," he said.
Log book: 'The biggest challenge is to stay focused'
Gurjeet Singh, 45, from India has been a crane operator in Dubai for three years. "I have my high school diploma and a licence for operating both tower and mobile cranes," said Singh, adding that he earns Dh2,500 per month.
"The biggest challenge is to stay focused and watch the crane traffic, to see which is moving towards or away from you. The cabin has air-conditioning and I have a heater so I can make coffee," he said.Would he have taken up the same profession in India? He said If he were still in India he would have gone into agriculture, but doubts that he would be able to provide for his family as he is now.
'The ... fastest pace of construction I have seen in my career'
Willy Cadayong, 54 from the Philippines is a tower crane erecting supervisor. He has been working in the construction industry for 28 years and was transferred to Dubai by his company to work on some of the biggest projects three years ago.
"This is the fastest pace of construction I have seen in my career. Everyday we erect a new crane," said Cadayong. "Our job is risky because we are high up all the time. The highest crane here [in Festival City] is 156 metres high. I'm not scared but until I retire I will be working putting up tower cranes," he added.
Population: They grow in numbers by the hour
The Burj Dubai construction site is peppered with metallic rods and steel structures emerging from the ground. To the untrained eye this could look like the skeletons of a lost city. In fact, it is the birthing place of what will be the world's tallest skyscraper.
The number of tower cranes overlooking the site is breathtaking and when you think you have counted them all, you suddenly see one more.
Tower cranes are the most common cranes in Dubai used for construction and contractors are having to book cranes well in advance, even before projects are finalised in order to be sure to start construction with enough heavy machinery.
So here goes. One, two, three tower cranes. Does a travelling crane count? And the climbing cranes strapped to the Burj Dubai that mount as the tower does? With the sweep of an eye you can already take in close to 30 cranes. Look again and it has doubled.
With a finger outstretched towards the sky to count these birds of Dubai, it is this journalist's estimate that there could be close to 150 cranes from this spot as far as the eye can see.
Count them for yourself but the number might have already increased.
An integral part of construction sites
Cranes come in all shapes and sizes capable of lifting different weights. Tower cranes, mobile cranes and crawler cranes are three main types of the heavy machinery used to lift construction materials.
Mohammad Shadab Khan, senior sales engineer for Kanoo Machinery said cranes are an integral part of a construction site. "Without one you don't have a construction site. They are needed to lift beams or water tanks," he said.
The most common cranes in Dubai are tower cranes which have a lifting capacity of 12 tonnes. The cost of a medium sized crane starts at Dh1 million.
"Operating a crane is a very demanding job. It is a high-tech job because inside the cabin there are about 16 computers to operate. You need to be relatively well educated," said Khan.
Namesake from the avian world
The common crane is also known as the Eurasian crane. It is over a metre tall, can weigh up to 5.5kg and has a wingspan of 210cm. According to the International Crane Foundation the population is between 250,000 to 275,000 but the species is declining.
The Eurasian Crane's breeding range extends from northern and western Europe across Eurasia to northern Mongolia, northern China, and eastern Siberia. The winter range includes portions of France and the Iberian Peninsula, north and east Africa, the Middle East, India, and southern and eastern China.
Definition: What is it?
A crane is a common fixture on construction sites used to lift anything beyond human capacity like steel, concrete blocks, beams, tanks and other types of building materials
The most commonly used cranes are tower cranes and mobile cranes
Tower cranes are usually the tallest cranes. The base of the crane is bolted onto a large concrete pad. The base connects to the mast (or tower), which gives the tower crane its height. Attached to the top of the mast is the slewing unit the gear and motor that allows the crane to rotate.
Usual maximum height for a free standing crane is 80 metres. A crane can only go higher if attached to a structure which grows around the crane.
The maximum reach of a crane is 70 metres.
On the move
The mobile crane is relatively simple. A telescopic boom (arm) or steel truss mounts its movable platform. Either pulleys or levers raise the boom. Generally a hook suspends from the boom.
The platform of a mobile crane can either have traditional wheels, wheels designed for railroad tracks, or a caterpillar track, which is useful for navigating unpaved and uneven surfaces. Mobiles can be used for demolition or earthmoving by replacing the hook with an appropriate tool, such as a wrecking ball or bucket.
Preliminary study for Abu Dhabi's Metro completed
ABU DHABI — 13 May:The Department of Municipalities and Agriculture of the Abu Dhabi Municipality has completed its preliminary study for the setting up of the Abu Dhabi Metro.
The state-of-the-art mass transport system will be integrated with other means of transport, according to Jumaa Mubarak Al Junaibi, Under-Secretary of the Department.
The project is being studied from all aspects after considering the enormous and rapid progress the city is witnessing in the fields of construction and industry, he said.
Al Junaibi said that metro transport would help decongest road traffic. Abu Dhabi as a metropolis and its environs are witnessing a rapid construction and economic boom that transcends all expectations, he said. The growing density of population in the commercial downtown area, has turned it into a bustling and busy place with armies of employees, visitors and shoppers in the streets round the cock, he noted.
Such policy is similar to the strategy of the Department regarding managing the transport system, particularly under the present developments.
Elaborating, he said a number of realty developers have embarked on the construction of mega construction projects, which could immensely affect the present transport system in the capital.
Stinking cabs could cause asthma attack
Dubai - 13 May:The body odour from sweaty members of Dubai’s 6,000strong cab driver force could trigger asthma attacks and allergic reactions in passengers as the temperature goes up, doctors have warned.
Passengers have complained bitterly to Emirates Today about strong smells in some cabs in which drivers are stuck for hours on end as the mercury in thermometers across the UAE rises.
In response, taxi firms have pledged to introduce perfumes in their cabs to mask heavy body odour and stressed to Emirates Today that all their cars are cleaned inside and out and inspected daily before they are taken out on shift.
Cab drivers themselves sometimes switch off the air-condi tioning when they are not carrying passengers because it reduces fuel consumption slightly.
The air conditioning itself also has its pitfalls, with viruses and germs circulating for many hours after being released into the cab by a sick passenger, allergy specialist Dr Mahboub from the Ministry of Health added.
Dr Mahboub said: “Strong smells in general set off asthma and allergic reactions because the throat and nose are already in a vulnerable state due to their condition – so body odour could be a concern in that respect.
“And as the weather gets hotter the aircon is on all the time.You can catch a cold from viruses that keep circulating in the cabs.” He added: “If the taxi driver has the same approach to driving as he does to his personal hygiene and there’s a strong smell then maybe you should be worried.” Advertising executive Daisy Cousins, 27, said: “It’s particularly awful when in the morning you are freshly showered and you get into a stinky cab – you worry you will get out stinking too.” But Dubai Transport’s Ammar bin Tamim hit back, saying: “We wash our cars inside and out every day before they go.
“We also plan to provide our taxis with perfume dispensers after we have trialed them on the buses first.” And Abu Ammar, of Metro Taxis, said: “There are isolated complaints but some are without justification. We clean our cars thoroughly.” Taxi driver Mahmoud Kokhar, who works a 16-hour shift every day, said: “We have the aircon on so the weather in our cabs is good. All professions have their challenges.” Drivers from state-run taxi firms such as Dubai Transport told Emirates Today they slept four to a room in their labour accommodation and were able to shower before and after their shifts. They added that they did not need to switch off the air con ditioning to save on fuel because their petrol was provided by the company.
However, taxi drivers from private companies said they were being forced to pay higher and higher rates to use the taxis and so had to work longer hours and miss out on sleep and basic amenities, such as showers.
THREE PERFUMES TO BE TESTED ON BUSES
Dubai Transport will experiment with three perfumes on its fleet of 102 buses over the next week.
The perfumes will combat the body odour of up to 50 people all sweating on a bus at the same time.
Dubai Transport boss Ammar Al Tamim told Emirates Today: “These are big buses and they carry lots of people. What we want to do is make sure the smell is pleasant for people, so we are trying out the different perfumes.
“There will be three fragrances and we will ask passengers for their feedback on the results.” Following the trial on buses, the perfumes will be introduced in the firm’s taxis, Al Tamim said.
People risking infection due to dangerous use of metal objects
Dubai ; 13 May: About 10 per cent of UAE residents use dangerous sharp metal objects, such as sewing needles and paperclips to clean between their teeth – risking infections that can need hundreds of dirhams worth of treatment and can even lead to loss of teeth.
Less than half of UAE residents visit the dentist regularly, dentists said, and many of those that do use objects such as sewing needles, paperclips, scissors and even business cards, instead of dental floss, to dislodge matter stuck between their teeth.
Dr Samer Al Din, a dentist at the Filipino Medical Centre in Karama, told Emirates Today how his patients’ bizarre efforts to keep their teeth clean had expensively backfired.
He said: “I have seen many strange things used to floss. A lot of people use metal objects to clean their teeth – some are even using needles or paper to remove food from between their teeth.
“Some people eat their dinner – and then just pick up whatever little object is nearest to them.
“It is very dangerous. Sharp things can make an injury that can then get infected. If they use metal which is dirty, then the infection can become serious. Infections differ, depending on what is used, but an infected gum will cause teeth to become loose and eventually fall out.
“I had a patient who used a needle, he injured himself very badly and he needed a lot of gum treatment. It cost him about Dh500.These people think they are helping themselves – but they are not. It’s about 10 per cent who are like this,” he added.
The revelations come after a survey by the British Dental Health Foundation found a staggering 60 per cent of people use whatever is closest at hand to remove food from between their teeth – including screwdrivers, scissors, earrings, sewing needles and knives.
The survey also found 23 per cent of people actually preferred to leave food stuck between their teeth, which increases the risk of gum disease and bad breath.
Jack Slater, an advertising executive, said: “I have known myself to use a paperclip – I just take the closest thing at hand. My teeth are healthy but I didn’t know about the gum risk and I will now buy some dental floss.” Danny, a designer, said he used business cards to get rid of food.
He said: “When you’ve had a chicken sandwich and there’s a bit stuck then its got to go. I sometimes use a corner of paper or a business card – there are so many swilling around Dubai that I always have one in my pocket.
“I’ve never cut myself. I also chew gum, which dislodges most lodged stuff.” Dr Al Din said: “Once you are used to it, your gums and teeth will become stronger.” He added that less than half of UAE residents visit the dentist at least twice a year – but he said awareness of the need to protect teeth and gums was increasing.