NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Closed firms’ workers have three months to find new job
ABU DHABI — March 11: Workers of firms that have closed down have the right to search for an alternative sponsor within three months, from the date of the cancellation of the company license, according to Hatem Al Genebi, Director of the Disputes Department at the Ministry of Labour (MoL).
He told Khaleej Times, yesterday, that Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi, Minister for Labour, has recently announced a ministerial decision that will give workers of closed firms, and who may not have completed a year in the country, the right to transfer to another sponsor within three months.
“In case a worker approaches the ministry to complain or to seek a change of sponsor after the expiry of the three-month grace period, the MoL has the right, to cancel the labour card and also a one-year work ban,” said Al Genebi.
He added, “In cases, where a workers comes to the ministry during the grace period for a change of sponsor, the MoL will cancel the labour cards and impose only a six month ban. However, the workers can apply for a work permit during the one-month period, as per the provisions of the law.”
“In case a worker has been in the country without a job for more than three months and has also not filed a complaint at the MoL, or is awaiting a court decision, the ministry has the right to cancel his labour card without banning him,” Al Genebi noted.
He said, “If the worker has been without a job for over six months, the MoL will cancel his/her labour card and ban him from work in the country for a year.”
If a labourer completes a year in the UAE, prior to the cancellation of his company’s licence, he has the right to transfer his sponsorship to another firm after getting a work permit and payment of the sponsorship transfer fees.
Al Genebi explained, the latest ministerial decision was taken as a measure to streamline the labour market in the UAE and to check the increasing number of illegal workers in the country.
New labour courts to speed up cases
ABU DHABI — March 11: New labour courts will be set up under the draft labour law once it is implemented to settle labour disputes quickly, specially the cases of unfair termination of jobs.
This was stated by Mohammed bin Nakhira Al Daheri, Minister of Justice, while talking to Khaleej Times.
He said the special courts will ensure that labour disputes are resolved within the shortest possible time.
The minister said the delay in making decisions is because of late submission of technical reports. He said that the ministry had now assigned a group of experts to look into those problems and suggest ways to resolve them.
On the procedures to be carried out by the ministry in order to ensure speedy action on labour issues, he said that the ministry had prepared a plan of action and important measures would be undertaken immediately after the enforcement of the new law.
Al Daheri said the ministry would increase the number of judges and courts would be expanded to accelerate work.
The ministry will take every step to ensure justice and speedy implementation of court decisions to help labourers get their rights, he said.
The minister also said that the ministry was currently collecting statistics on the number and types of labour issues during the past five years.
The cases where decisions were delayed will be identified to find out the causes of delay and to suggest ways to iron out difficulties and ensure quicker solutions in the future.
Parking for bicycles in Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI — March 11: The Department for Municipalities and Agriculture in Abu Dhabi is planning to arrange for separate spaces for bicycles in parking facilities designed for cars.
A source in the department said locks will also be available for bicycles. “These parking spaces will be located in areas with predominantly Asian populations.”
The source added the civic body noticed that people were keeping their bicycles by lamp posts, a sight that marred the city’s image.
Bike parkings, he said, are common in several European capitals like Stockholm.
No birds, no business
DUBAI — March 11: Following reports on the occurrence of bird flu in various parts of the world and the recent ban imposed by the UAE on import of birds and poultry from around the globe, more than 200 bird sellers in Dubai and Sharjah are facing an uncertain future.
While some have been forced to close down shops for a lack of business, others have resorted to options like selling aquariums.
If the bird flu threat continues to prevail across the globe, businesses worth millions of dirhams will be affected in the UAE, particularly in Dubai and Sharjah, where the average daily earning of a bird seller usually ranges between Dh5,000 and Dh10,000, market sources say. Bird sellers are now left with no stocks as the UAE has imposed a ban on the import of birds from countries like Africa, Pakistan and India. Dubai has about 20 bird shops while in Sharjah, there are around 200 shops.
On the other hand, the Dubai Municipality has asked all bird sellers to be on the alert for any Avian Influenza symptoms in birds. Civic body inspectors carry out regular checks in bird shops. “Our inspectors are always keeping a close eye on these shops. They have been issued with some directives that they should strictly follow,” said an official of the Veterinary Section of the municipality.
But, according to shopkeepers, these inspections hold no value as there are hardly any birds with them.
“Earlier, we earned Dh5000 to Dh10,000 per day. The cages used to be full of a wide variety of birds from across the globe. But now there are no birds and there is no business. Now we consider ourselves lucky if we get Dh 1000 at the end of the day. I have to sell fish, rabbits and other animals to survive,” said Akil, an employee of the World Bird Trading in Dubai.
“People in the UAE love birds. We always had rare species like Macaws, African Green Parrots, Cockatoos, etc,” he added.
Most of these traders have got little or no idea about the fish business or any other new venture that they have to embark on. “Starting a business is an uphill task. We have got some friends who deal in fish. Some bird sellers have resorted to such business, although they have no idea about it. And, moreover, every new business needs a lot of capital. We just don’t know what to do,” said Ali Hasan, another bird seller in Dubai.
Abdulla TP, in charge of the Creatures Oasis, a bird shop, said, “The import of birds into the UAE has been banned to protect the country from Bird Flu. We do have some stocks in the shop, but no one is buying birds these days. As a result, we have now started to bank on fishes. But then there is no comparison between the two businesses. People here love birds from Pakistan.”
Shopkeepers at the Sharjah Bird Market share the same fate. “I have got two shops in Sharjah and one in Dubai. And one of them had to be closed down. The rent is also creating a lot of pressure on us. We are just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that good days will come back,” said Azhar Iman, a bird seller in Sharjah.
Bird sellers said sometimes UAE nationals who own a large collection of birds sell some of their pets to traders at high prices. “Under the present circumstances, we are forced to buy them at high prices because our shops are empty. Since we need to do something, we end up buying a pair of parrots for Dh500! Such high prices restrict our profit margins since there are very few takers for birds these days” said a trader.
Both the Dubai and the Sharjah Municipalities have banned the sale and import of live poultry to avoid any risk of Bird Flu.
According to officials, the step has been taken as a precautionary measure. They add that they are carrying out regular checks to ensure that no one sells live poultry.
“If anyone is caught selling live poultry, strict action will be taken against him. Fines can amount to Dh 5000 or even more,” said an official.
8,000 labourers stay away from work seeking pay hike
DUBAI — March 11: Some 8,000 Asian workers of a leading, Dubai-based, contracting company refused to attend work yesterday, demanding an increase in their salary.
The workers remained in their labour camps in Al Quoz, Jebel Ali and Sonapur, claiming that the salaries they received were just not enough anymore — to meet even their basic requirements.
“I have been working with the company for the past 12 years on a salary of Dh600. The company has never given me any increment to date. The cost of living in the city has gone up drastically, but our salaries remain unchanged,” said a worker on condition of anonymity.
“With this low salary, I can save no money and my family back home too suffers as a consequence,” he grumbled.
Murugan, another worker pointed out, the company does not provide a return air ticket for its workers when they go home for vacation.
“Obviously, we cannot afford to take a vacation too often. The company should revise and raise our salary and give us free return air tickets, atleast once in two years,” he said.
An official from the company, when contacted said: “We pay our workers as per their labour contract. We have never delayed their salaries and we treat them well,” he said, condemning the protest by workers demanding an increase of between Dh250 and Dh400 a month.
“We have informed the workers that we are ready to look into all their grievances. But we need time,” he said, adding, they expect the workers to resume work today.
Meanwhile, the Indian Consulate in Dubai has intervened in the issue. B.S. Mubarak, spokesperson of the Indian Consulate, said the company has assured they are ready to address the grievances of the workers.
Officials from the Human Rights Department of Dubai Police and from the Ministry of Labour visited the labour camps.
Major Dr Mohammed Al Murr, Human Rights Department Director, Dubai Police, Member of the Permanent Labour Affairs Committee in Dubai, said: “In such cases we look at the contract, if the company is committed to its clauses then the labourers don’t have the right to hold such strikes. If they are presenting any demands which are not mentioned in the contract they are deemed illegal and they don’t entitle the labourer to stop working”.
Major Al Murr warned that investigation will be carried out to trace the strike instigators and effective legal action will be taken against them. “What the authorities are concerned about is the clauses of the contract and in particular five clauses which are the payment of the salary at the end of every month, providing good accomodation and food, the hygienic aspects and the stipulated working hours. We will be receiving a detailed report about the strike and we will refer it to the relevant authorities”.
Major Al Murr called on labourers to abide by the contract stressing that any raise in the salary should be claimed once the contract is expired and more precisely when signing a new contract.
A source in the Ministry of Labour said: “The labourers didn’t report to work between 3am and 4am yesterday. The company, in its complaint to MoL, sought the ministry’s intervention to prevent any problem from getting worse. MoL got the complaint at 1pm and referred it to the Permanent Labour Affairs Committee in Dubai. The latter followed it up with Dubai Police.”
Officials from Dubai Police went to the camps in Sonapur and Al Quoz and listened to the labourers views. They also met the company’s director who assured them that all the labourers rights are being repected.
A meeting is to be held today between the company’s owners and the authorities concerned to review the labourers’demands in order to take necessary action.
Traders change timings to beat traffic
DUBAI — March 11: A group of traders at the food market in Al Ras, Deira has changed their shop timings to beat the traffic.
Traders and shop owners in the market are now keeping their shops open from 8 am to 6 pm without any afternoon break. Earlier, the market was open from 8am to 10pm with the three-hour break from 1pm to 4pm daily.
The wholesale market deals in spices, pulses, food grains, etc.
According to traders, customers face the worst traffic snarls in the evening. Riaz Hussain Bhojani, one of the shop owners, said, “We were thinking about the changes for a long time. Earlier, all the shops used to open at 8 am and work until 1 pm. We re-opened at 4 pm in the afternoon and finally closed our shops at 8 pm. But then the timing was causing a lot of problems for us.”
“We used to reach our homes by 11.30pm or even past midnight owing to heavy traffic. Customers used to get stranded in the market due to the traffic chaos around it. The situation started to improve after we recently changed our timings,” he added.
Dubai Municipality officials said shopkeepers can keep their shops open at noon. “If they are keeping the shops open without any break and closing early in the evening, it’s fine. There is no specific rule with regard to the time for opening and closing shops,” said an official.
Customers too are apparently happy with the new timings. “We can now just come to the market during lunch time and shop,” said a regular shopper at the Al Ras market.
Labour law draft: job policies the most read
DUBAI — March 11: The UAE Ministry of Labour has announced that its online survey of public opinion on the draft of the new labour law has received an overwhelming number of hits.
The portal will remain active until April 6 following which the ministry will analyse the feedback and make amendments to the labour law, ahead of implementation in December 2007.
The web site was launched in February by MoL with the support of du, the new telecom operator in the UAE.
Of the 195 clauses featured online, the most accessed have been those related to employment policies, Emiratisation and the use of appropriate language for all contracts and related documents. Other items that have generated substantial feedback include regulations for the termination of an employment contract, employment of women, working hours and holidays.
Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Labour, said, “We have received an overwhelming response on the draft law from visitors to the web site, reflecting the success of the initiative. Several issues that we were unaware of have now been brought to our attention. The suggestions will go a long way to ensure the new labour law integrates critical elements beneficial to the community and all parties associated with the labour force.”
An English version of the web site www.uaelabourlaw.net was recently launched as an initiative to get feedback from a larger population base.
MoL aims to develop an efficient working environment and provide effective services for the public. It also aims to achieve a balance between the employer and the employee as well as an equilibrium between economic benefits and national interests.
Underage drinking a security headache
Alcohol abuse by minors at the festival a cause for concern
Dubai - March 11: Security at Desert Rock is huge this year, with deployment of 205 personnel supported by the Dubai Police to keep the festival orderly. A major problem for the security guards, however, is not the mock mosh pits (where rockers headbang against each other, often with rather bloody results), or the huge crowds, but the unfortunate and almost tragic issue of alcohol abuse by minors at the festival.
Malcolm Mandeville, Division Manager for the First Security Group, said that the problem is the adults who are providing alcohol to underage fans.
Two reaction teams from the group consisting of around 30 members from the force were constantly patrolling the area to check if minors were consuming alcohol. “Anyone on the premises without an over-21 arm band and a glass in their hand is immediately brought to the security and the police step in. We talk to them a bit and if they’re not drunk, they’re issued a warning. On repeat offences we’re supported by the police, who co-operate with us in handling such cases.”
“At the bar to purchase alcohol, you need to present a government issued ID and then only will you be served. We’ve had to turn away people who were obviously older, because they didn’t have the appropriate ID.”
In an earlier interview, Jackie Wartanian, managing director of Centre Stage Management, organisers of the event, said that the onus of such incidents fell upon the child’s guardian. “I’ve seen older people giving young ones alcohol and that’s not good. You see these kids drinking and it’s not their fault, but that of the adults who are giving it to them.”
Kids under 11 are allowed in free to the concert and children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult. Wartanian said that while the festival was fine, she didn’t think that children should be right up in front, where they could get hurt by moshing crowds.
Mandeville also stressed that heat exhaustion was a problem at the festival. “People just don’t drink enough of water during the day,” he said.
Indian charged with possession of pornographic, pirated CDs
DUBAI - March 11: An Indian man is on trial in the Dubai Court of Appeal for possessing pornographic and pirated CDs and illegally residing in the country. The accused identified as S.K., was arrested by the Dubai Police while he was distributing CDs. During investigations, police also discovered that his visa had expired. S.K. admitted to the charges before the court. The final judgment in the case will be pronounced when the court reconvenes on Sunday.
Sri Lankan under trial for death of a man on his ship
Dubai - March 11: A Sri Lankan man, identified as M.S., is on trial in Dubai Court of Crimes for the death of a man on his ship. According to Public Prosecution investigations, M.S., who is the ship owner, did not take necessary precautions and required measures to avoid mishaps on his ship, which resulted in the death of the man. However, he pleaded innocent and said that the accident was caused by technical failure. The next hearing will be held next week.