News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Motorists will soon have to pay for using Dubai roads

Dubai - Nov. 09: Motorists using specific Dubai roads during rush hours will have to pay a Dh4 traffic tariff, according to a new law.

“Details about the tariff, name of the roads, maps and other details will be announced at a press conference next week,” said a senior Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) official.

Gulf News was the first to break the story about the government’s plans to introduce a toll system in Dubai on December 19, 2004, and then confirmed the report on December 10, 2005, saying the authorities had finalised the plan to implement the system to ease traffic congestion.

Arabic daily Al Ittihad on Wednesday reported that a traffic tariff law has been approved and will be implemented in July, 2007.

All vehicles, whether registered in Dubai or other emirates, will have to pay the tariff, which will be Dh4 per vehicle per entry into the specified zone or road.

Motorists will have to get tariff cards and the money will be deducted automatically when they pass through gates fitted with scanners.

Motorists will be able to pay the tariff by using the cards, which they will be able to purchase in advance and can be recharged.

Violators will face fines ranging from Dh100 to Dh10,000, according to the law. Police and civil defence vehicles, ambulances, school buses and public transport buses will be exempt from the tariff.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has issued Law No 22, 2006 authorising the Dubai RTA to charge vehicles tariffs in certain specified areas or roads, Al Ittihad Arabic newspaper reported. The rule comes into force on July 1, 2007.

Electronic gates fitted with scanners will be installed on specified roads while the tariff will be deducted automatically from the cards, which motorists will have to display on their vehicles.

The tariff will be charged every time a vehicle passes under a gate fitted with an electronic scanner on the road. Motorists will not have to stop to pay the traffic fee.

Fees will be charged from all vehicles, whether registered in Dubai or other emirates or countries.

Details of the roads and areas where motorists will be charged the tariff will be announced at a press conference next week.

However, an RTA official said there will alternative routes available for motorists. He said the main objective of the tariff is not to make money but to regulate traffic and reduce congestion on the roads.

He said that Dubai is not the first one to introduce this system as it is already being implemented in many cities around the world. A massive awareness campaign will be launched to educate motorists before the law comes into force.

Those who violate the regulation will be fined as per the law. The RTA will identify the locations of the gates where scanners will be installed to deduct the tariff. The authority will also specify rush hour timings for the fees.

RTA inspectors will have the authority to issue fines to violators.

Meanwhile, Dubai Executive Council has approved the fees and fines for the traffic tariff through resolution number 17, 2006. The RTA Board of Directors will have the right to revise the traffic tariff.


Vehicle type- Fees
Motorcycle - Dh4
Light vehicle - Dh4
Heavy vehicle - Dh4
Light bus - Dh 4
Heavy bus - Dh4
Light/heavy mechanical vehicles - Dh4
Card and subscription fee - Dh50
Card replacement fee - Dh50
Card cancellation fee - Dh10
Transfer of card - Dh50


Seatbelt campaign takes to the malls

Dubai - Nov. 09: More than 20 people were killed in traffic accidents in the first eight months of this year because they were not wearing seatbelts prompting a safety campaign recommending that all occupants of vehicles buckle up.

"Buckle Up Dubai" is the message for motorists from the International Association of Human Values (IAHV) who initiated their autumn campaign by unveiling the seat belt convincer to the public.

According to statistics, police issued 3,407 fines to motorists who did not wear seatbelts last year, which comprised 0.29 per cent of the total traffic offences last year. The fine for not wearing seatbelts is Dh100 and three black points are slapped on the driving licence.

Statistics also revealed that 17 people were killed in 2004 for not wearing seatbelts while 20 were killed in 2005. Fifty per cent of accident fatalities were because occupants were not wearing seatbelts.

"The driver has the additional responsibility of ensuring that all co-passengers are wearing seatbelts. It's just as if every driver is a pilot who orders all passengers to wear their safety belts before take off," said Brigadier Mohammad Saeed Al Merri, Deputy Director of Dubai Police's Community Service Department at the launch of the campaign.

Sponsored by the Emirates Driving Institute (EDI), the seatbelt convincer will demonstrate to motorists and passengers the physical shock of being involved in a car crash and will be available for the public to experience at Centrepoint at the Mall of the Emirates on Saturday from 7pm and 9pm, and other major shopping malls.

"The community needs to understand the dangers of driving without using the belts provided in every vehicle," said Salah Al Marzouqi, Deputy Director of Traffic at the Roads and Transport Authority.

He said when rear seat passengers are not belted, they can cause the death of the front seat passengers during collisions. So the cause of the fatality is not the accident, but the fact that the safety belt was not used by all the passengers.


Winner's wife thought he had received a fine

Dubai - Nov. 09: The wife of one of the Roadstar winners on Wednesday could not believe her husband won Dh750 and told him he might have received a fine instead.

Indian Anil Mooppan's wife thought her husband had received a fine of Dh750 and could not believe that he had won the Roadstar title after he called to tell her.

Mooppan said he had some idea of the campaign, as he had read about it in the newspaper.

Nilufa Nizar, a Sri Lankan housewife who has been driving in the UAE for the past 10 years, said her son was upset as he had failed his driving test on Wednesday, but was happy when his mother won the prize.

"Although I knew about the campaign, I was scared the moment police pulled me over. I am very happy to be a safe driver," she said. "I forgot my mobile phone number and gave my husband's number instead as I got very nervous and confused over what was going on," said Zafar Baki Zada from Syria who has been driving in the UAE since 1998.

She said it was a pleasant surprise and she will buy gifts for each of her family members to celebrate.

"It is the meaning behind the reward and not the reward itself that is important," Zafar said.

Jesus Manicad, from Philippines, said he will send the money he won to his hometown to help finance the education of his three children.

"I was scared and thought I had committed an offence when police pulled me over although I had heard about the campaign on the radio," he said.


Morning fog causes over 200 accidents

Dubai - Nov. 09: There were hundreds of accidents on Dubai's roads on Wednesday during early morning fog, and Thursday could see a repeat of the hazardous conditions.

Dubai Police's Command and Control Room reported more than 225 minor accidents although there were not thought to be any serious injuries.

Police blamed the accidents on drivers who were speeding, ignoring traffic rules and failing to leave enough space between vehicles.

Officers said that motorists must drive more slowly and not get too close to the car ahead of them in the hazardous conditions.

Flights as well as roads were disrupted when visibility plunged to as little as 100 metres.

Sharjah was the first area to be affected yesterday, with the fog arriving at around 4am and lasting for about two hours. Visibility in the emirate fell to 300 metres.

In Dubai foggy conditions began at around 6.30am and lasted until about 9am, with meteorologists recording visibility of as little as 200 metres.

The fog was even thicker in Abu Dhabi, and at one stage people could see no more than 100 metres in the capital.

However, as with elsewhere, conditions had improved by about 9am.

Inland parts of the UAE, including Ras Al Khaimah, largely escaped the fog on Thursday, forecasters said.

Shamma Lootah, media relations and communications manager at Dubai International Airport, said one incoming flight had to be diverted to Ras Al Khaimah because of the conditions. She said no outgoing services suffered disruption as a result of the fog.

Wednesday's maximum temperature in Dubai was 32C and the minimum was 23C, and similar figures are predicted for Thursday.

Clive Stevens, duty forecaster at Dubai International Airport, said that inland parts of the UAE could be heaviest hit by the fog Thursday.

He added: "There is a risk [of fog] this morning as the moist air is still coming in from the sea, although it will clear once the sun comes up.

"It will be slightly humid for the next few days, but with maximum temperatures of 32C or 33C, it will be very pleasant weather."

Stevens said offshore winds could be between 15 and 20 knots, causing slightly choppy conditions with waves of four to six feet. Other forecasters have said waves in the central Gulf could be as high as 14 feet.


Specialised labour court to be set up

Dubai - Nov. 09: The Dubai Courts Department (DCD) has announced the setting up of a specialised labour court that will handle labour disputes.

Acting on the directives of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, Dr Ahmad Bin Hazim Al Suwaidi, DCD's Director, chaired a meeting with the members of the strategic transformation team in the justice sector regarding the 'fast formation of a specialised labour court' yesterday.

Shaikh Mohammad had met Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, Minister of Labour, on Tuesday and ordered a stricter enforcement of laws that protect the rights of labourers and domestic workers and that improve their quality of life.

Shaikh Mohammad ordered him to take necessary action to address the issues of expatriate workers in the country and to ensure that significantly improved standards of health, safety and quality of life - in both their workplaces and living areas - are met.

Yesterday's meeting came up with a plan to reorganise the six labour sections (functioning currently) at the courts. The meeting agreed to place all labour sections under the umbrella of the Dubai labour court.

Dr Al Suwaidi praised Shaikh Mohammad's directives on labourers.

He told Gulf News, "The decision to have a specialised labour court in Dubai will bring the federal and local authorities under one umbrella and will help to coordinate and synchronise the work and procedures which is assigned to bring justice for labourers."


Companies, workers welcome new law

Dubai - Nov. 09: Workers and companies have welcomed the directives of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to protect workers' rights.

Noel Don, Director at Al Naboodah Laing O'Rourke, applauded the directives, saying they will help improve the conditions of workers and improve relationships in the labour market.

"This will force all companies to adhere to the rules. They must set a clear mechanism on how to improve workers' conditions and to solve existing problems.

"For example, some recruitment agencies cause problems by promising workers more than what is really on offer. Maybe other means to bring over workers would limit the problems, but it is important to provide sufficient alternatives for companies before banning such agencies," said Don.

"I think the medical insurance is a very good idea although we have our own small clinics onsite which workers can go to. But if the ministry decides to establish medical centres for workers it would be a better idea and we would even consider contributing in this matter," said Don.

Mohammad Al Wali, administration manager at Al Hoda contracting company, said the directives will result in more commitment from companies, especially those who have had problems in the past. "The ministry has been helpful in solving collective labour disputes. But things will get even more effective now."

Somu, an Indian electrician said that he is happy. "Things are getting better," he said.

Samir, a driver from Yemen, said he feels safer now. "I have more faith in the Ministry of Labour to solve my problems, if they occur, than before," he said.


Here’s to your health insurance

Dubai - Nov. 09:All foreign workers are set to be offered private medical insurance by their employers in the wake of a major announcement by the Ruler of Dubai. Senior Labour Ministry officials confirmed yesterday that a ruling by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum meant all workers in the emirate would be entitled to the health cover.

The clarification comes after the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE ordered new labour laws and rights for all expats, including construction workers and housemaids. The changes will mean all companies employing foreign workers will have to provide medical cover for them. Assistant undersecretary of labour, Hamid Bin Demas, told 7DAYS yesterday that all expats would be entitled to the benefit.

“Foreign workers in all sectors would be given medical coverage, we are not just talking about construction companies here.” He added that this followed a law recently passed in Abu Dhabi, which required all private companies to provide employees with private medical insurance. Officials in Dubai’s health and labour ministries are also working to come up with a law to determine the medical care requirements and ways to enforce it.

Bin Demas said the labour ministry currently requires employers to give their staff medical cards, which entitles workers to treatment in government hospitals but at a cost.  “A new law would specify the medical cover required and organised plan,” he added. Alan Graham, an expat who currently doesn’t enjoy medical coverage from his employer, said the move is long over due. “It’s scandalous that companies turning huge profits are so exploitive and stingy. They have to be forced to look after their staff.  It’s not like we are covered by a state health system,” he added.

However, one Dubai-based company general manager, who heads a medium-sized organisation of around 45 employees, said that although the authorities are right to do what they can to protect working conditions, “people in our position fear rising costs, and we also believe that many employers will get around this law by simply declaring that a proportion of an employee’s existing salary will in the future be set aside for medical insurance allowance. The staff’s salaries will not go up, and while they will have insurance, they’ll be paying for it themselves.”

Alnaz Popat, managing director of Life Care International insurance brokers, said the move is most welcome.  “Government hospitals have been under a lot of pressure and it’s time to make employers shoulder some of the responsibility,” he said.


We now have a voice

Dubai - Nov. 09:They are the silent army of workers maintaining Dubai’s domestic harmony. But for thousands of housemaids working in the emirate’s apartments and villas, that role often comes at a price - months of unpaid wages, physical and verbal abuse, dangerous working conditions and extremely long hours.

Now it seems the plight of some of the city’s most vulnerable domestic staff – many who earn a meagre dhs700 a month – may finally be coming to an end. Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, this week announced plans to shake-up the laws protecting Dubai’s labourers and domestic workers. Contracts will limit their working hours, allow them to switch jobs with no obstacles, and ensure workers’ salaries cannot be held for more than two months by employers. There will even be a medical insurance scheme covering all grades of workers and a specialised court will be created to deal with mistreatment cases.

The news is music to the ears of one Filipino maid, forced to flee her sponsor’s home after months of physical and verbal abuse. Wishing to remain anonymous, she said: “I have just been reading about Sheikh Mohammed’s announcement and am so, so happy.  “I came to Dubai in September last year to live with a family, but conditions were not good. I did not receive my salary for three months and was never allowed time off. I would wake up, at six or seven o’clock, and work until midnight or one o’clock the following morning.

“I was afraid to have a break. They did not like their housemaid sitting down so I would have to stand all day. I had a room but it was not secure, so I had no privacy. When I decided to leave I did not know my address for the taxi because I had never left the house. I was abused, both physically and emotionally. They told me I was a trouble-maker and had come to Dubai to make problems. But, thanks to women’s shelter City Of Hope I now live with a good sponsor and am very happy. With this new law, there is hope.”

A Sri Lankan maid, working for a family in Mirdif, told the similar plight of a young Indonesian girl, kept a virtual prisoner in a next-door villa. “Our rooms have an adjoining wall, and one night I began talking to her through the air conditioning vents”, she recalled. “She has been ordered not to speak to anyone outside the family and is terrified about her employers finding out about her conversations. She whispers to me through the walls about how badly she is being treated and how frightened she is.”

China Ardivilla, labour attaché at the Philippine Consulate General, Dubai, said such mal-treatment is sadly all-too-common among Filipino housemaids. “We are very thankful to our Sheikh and President for protecting us and working to improve the situation here in Dubai for domestic workers”, she said. “There are obviously many very good sponsors who care for their workers but there are some unscrupulous employers who treat their helpers appallingly. We are human beings, not animals, and should be treated with dignity.”

Mr B S Mubarak, spokesperson for the Consulate General of India in Dubai, was optimistic about the success of the proposed changes, saying conditions for India’s domestic work force, which has one of the highest suicide rates in the UAE, have already improved thanks to new contract laws introduced by the Indian government for workers in the UAE. “They introduced employer contracts which promise no more than eight hour shifts for our workers and prevent Indian women below 30 years from working as maids. Things seem to be getting better”, he said.

But Jayshree Gupta, office managing partner at employment law experts DLA Piper Middle East, has practised in Dubai for 12 years and warns education is now crucial to long-term change. She said: “It is a great move, to be applauded, and I believe the plans will be implemented quickly. What is needed now, however, is guidance for workers. They must be educated about their rights.”


Cars to be seized

Dubai - Nov. 09:Motorists who drive on the hard shoulder or change lanes without signalling will have their cars impounded, the head of Dubai’s traffic police has warned. Following an order from HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, to improve road safety in the city, police have launched a major crackdown on bad driving. Now any driver caught driving on the hard shoulder will lose their car for a month and those who change lanes without signalling a week.

Brigadier Mohammad Al-Zafeen, head of Dubai traffic police, has ordered police patrols to deal harshly with any violating motorists. He told 7DAYS: “Besides the financial penalty we will seize any vehicle which crosses on to the hard shoulder for one month. “Motorists who fail to drive in the correct lane will also pay the penalty and the vehicle will be in police custody for one week.”

According to the police the fine for driving on the hard shoulder is dhs400 and dhs100 for failing to drive in the correct lane. Brig Al-Zafeen also ordered police officers who normally deal with administration work to patrol the roads between 7am and 9am each morning. He said: “That will increase the number of police on the streets for the crackdown on reckless driving.”

Colonel Mohammad Al-Ali from Dubai traffic police, said they would not accept any excuses from violating motorists. He added: “Reasons like ‘I was late’ or ‘my kid was late for school’ are not acceptable anymore because these violations increase traffic jams. Increasing the number of police officers on the roads benefits all motorists.”


Schools, media urged to increase awareness about risks of Internet

ABU DHABI — Nov. 09: The seminar on safety of Internet networks which concluded here yesterday has called for concerted efforts by government bodies, educational institutions and media for spreading awareness about social risks involved in the information systems and the need to establish controls to avoid the negative aspects of Internet cafes.

The seminar was organised by the Centre of Research and Security Studies affiliated to the Abu Dhabi Police General Headquarters in Abu Dhabi.

Colonel Najm Abdulla Sayar Al Hawsany, Director of the Department of Community Policing in the Abu Dhabi Police and Chairman of the Organising Committee of the forum, said that the forum emphasised the importance of continuing development of existing legislation to keep pace with the rapid developments in the field of information technology and ensure the highest degree of information security so that protection of the community can be guaranteed without ignoring the individual freedom.

The seminar also recommended creation of a specialised unit for the investigation and prosecution of  Internet crimes.

The forum stressed the need for activating the role of the family in the follow-up to prevent their children from falling prey to the negative effects.

It urged sharing of experiences by security authorities in the said field and training of qualified technical cadres to strengthen their capabilities and potential for combating cyber crimes. It also called for setting up a database about the Internet users.


Work permit rule change to benefit companies

ABU DHABI — Nov. 09: The Ministry of Labour (MoL) has issued a new amendment to the work permit system enabling a sponsor to use a work permit twice for substituting employees, according to sources.

Before the amendment, a sponsor had to apply for a new work permit for substituting a worker. The work permit could be used only once. The new system is expected to save time and money for both companies and employers.

Khalil Khory, Head of the Work Permits Department at the MoL, said, “This step will make the process of substitution of workers (if they are found disqualified) smoother. Companies can now change employees for two times and can have a new permit for a new worker.”

“This will apply to all nationalities,” Khory added.

Regarding the professions included in the new amendment, Khory said it can be any worker, irrespective  of his or her designation.


New job contracts to protect maids, drivers

DUBAI — Nov. 09: In a new move aimed at protecting the rights of housemaids, farm workers and drivers, a special job contract for them will be issued by the Department of Naturalisation and Residency .

The initiative came upon instructions from His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in order to enhance the working conditions for housemaids in the country.

“The contract shall organise the work relation between the employer and the housemaid. It is basically designed to safeguard the rights of both parties concerned. It elaborates on every single detail pertaining to salary, accommodation, healthcare and working hours. In short the new contract will comprise all aspects of their employment” said Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director of Department of Naturalisation and Residency Dubai (DNRD).

“No change has come up as to the entry permits of the housemaids but the whole thing is all about the reorganisation of their work under a new special contract in the country” noted Al Marri.

He said that in the absence of a special labour contract for their affairs, domestic servants would often fall prey  to abusive employers  who would jeopardise their life making them do risky house jobs, deprive them of leaves or even do not pay them their dues. Now for the first time housemaids and other labourers such as drivers and farm workers will have a legal contract that would  protect them against opportunist employers.

“Furthermore, prior to the new contract it was practically impossible to take any punitive action against the housemaid’s employer in case of abuse and mistreatment as it occurs on an individual level.”

The decision of adopting this new contract is already taken and meetings are now being held to determine the implementation mechanism and most of all specify the housemaids’ working hours and conditions, and it won’t take a long time before it’s put into use.


18 companies bid for 21st century taxi system

ABU DHABI – Nov. 09: An opportunity for prospective operators to pre-qualify for the 21st century taxi system in Abu Dhabi, has attracted over 18 candidates from across the country. The Taxi Transport Regulation Centre will short-list qualified companies to proceed to the RFP stage of the competitive bidding process.

Taxi operators were invited to submit their applications for the ‘Request for Pre-Qualification’ phase between October 17 and 31. 

“An opportunity to provide a world-class taxi service has attracted considerable attention,” Khaled Saleh Al Rashedi, General Manager, Taxi Transport Regulation Centre, said yesterday. 

“Given our high standards and quality benchmarks, all prospects will be primarily reviewed against their capabilities, experience and financial strength to operate and manage a minimum fleet of 1,000 taxis,” Rashedi added.

The short-listed candidates will then need to respond to the ‘Request for Proposal’ (RFP) phase, which requires companies to submit a detailed business plan to manage taxi services under the regulatory authority of the Taxi Transport Regulation Centre. All candidates will receive an official written communication in early December confirming the status of their pre-qualification applications.

“We are maintaining a progress card against our implementation plan to ensure we have new taxis on the streets of the emirate during the third quarter of 2007,” concluded Al Rashedi.

The President, His Highness, Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in his capacity as Ruler of Abu Dhabi, issued a law on October 1, to regulate and organise taxi transport service in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.


Foggy weather to persist for few days: Met office

DUBAI — Nov. 09: The emirate may continue to experience foggy mornings in the next few days, according to the Dubai International Airport’s (DIA) Meteorological Office.

The highest temperature yesterday was recorded at 33 degrees Celsius with slight humidity in the evening. The lowest temperature was registered at 23 degrees Celsius with mist in the early morning.

Despite the fog, a source at the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) said that flight operations at the DIA have generally remained normal except for an Iran Air flight, which had to be diverted to its original destination in Shiraz because of the weather conditions.

A spokesperson from Emirates confirmed that several flights were delayed yesterday morning because of the fog. “Some flights departed up to 90 minutes late. There were, however, no diversions and operations have been restored to normal,” the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, minor interruptions were also noted at the Sharjah International Airport. Hari Haran, Section Head for Ground Operations at the airport, told Khaleej Times that four flights were diverted yesterday morning. “The weather conditions persisted from 2.30am to 5.30am. During that time, four flights from Sharjah were diverted: Two in Ras Al Khaimah, one in Abu Dhabi and another in Fujairah. Other than that, operations have remained normal throughout the day,” Haran said.

A source at Air Arabia has confirmed that one of their aircraft bound for Cochin was re-routed to Ras Al Khaimah, but he said they had experienced no delays or further disruptions with their other flights.

Meanwhile, the Control Room of the Dubai Police recorded 225 minor traffic accidents yesterday due to the foggy weather.

Expressing concern towards motorists, the Dubai Police have urged the public to take care while driving in bad weather conditions. “During the weather change motorists should  avoid traffic accidents which occur  in certain weather conditions.”

The drivers should comply by safety measures and following poor visibility, motorists should ensure that the glass of their vehicle is clean.

In addition, use light, leave enough space between vehicles, drive slowly and avoid lane change and use indicators before changing lanes, police said.



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