NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Large number of workers ignorant about their rights, responsibilities
ABU DHABI — March 26: A large number of workers are ignorant about their rights and responsibilities earmarked by the terms of the labour contracts they have signed with employers.
This largely contributes to the labour disputes, a senior official of the Ministry of Labour (MoL) has pointed out.
“Most of the complaints filed at the MoL are the result of the workers’ ignorance about their rights as well as their obligations towards their employers,” Mohsen Ali Saeed, Director of the Inspection Department at the MoL told Khaleej Times.
The official said that to protect the rights of both the employees and the employers, the ministry had instructed companies to have “executive by-laws”, which stipulate the penalties to be imposed on the workers for violating their labour contracts or the labour laws of the country.
“The ministry will impose penalty on companies that do not comply with this instruction,” said Saeed.
Yousif Jaafar, Legal Counsellor at the MoL, noted that under the Article 117 of the labour law, either the employer or the worker can break an unlimited period contract at any time by giving the other party a notice, in writing, at least 30 days prior to the termination.
The law also stipulates that for daily wage workers, the notice period shall be of one week if the worker has been employed for more than six months, but less than one year.
Etisalat’s ‘pay as you go’ package
ABU DHABI — March 26: Etisalat yesterday announced a ‘pay as you go’ package, which will enable customers to log on to Etisalat’s 3.5G network and immediately enjoy advanced services without registration or monthly rental fees.
Etisalat’s 3.5G network is the gateway for mobile users to experience advanced mobile technology such as video Calling, where Etisalat customers can see each other live while on a call.
Additionally Etisalat’s 3.5G network enables users to reach High Speed Mobile Internet Access of up to 2 Mbps using 3.5G Mobile handsets and data cards, and 384 kbps using 3G Mobile handsets and Data Cards.
UAE takes strong exception to HRW report on workers
DUBAI — March 26: The Ministry of Labour (MoL) yesterday said the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, suggesting that the country’s draft labour law falls far short of international standards insofar as protecting workers’ rights is concerned, is unfortunate as it does not reflect ground realities.
A 15-page report released by the HRW at a Press conference yesterday urged the UAE government to revise the law to protect workers’ rights to organise themselves and bargain collectively. The report also said that the draft law should, among other things, cover such groups as domestic workers.
In a statement, Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi, Minister of Labour, said he appreciated the comments made by the HRW about the draft labour law in the UAE and the ministry would take them into consideration. He said the revised draft law has been placed on the Internet and is receiving feedback from relevant organisations.
The effort made by the MoL to seek public opinion about the revised draft labour law underscored its profound belief in the principle of transparency and the importance of taking views of all relevant parties, including HRW, into consideration, the minister added.
Revised draft law
Pointing out that the ministry was still receiving responses to the revised draft law, Dr Al Kaabi said, “Based on our values and keenness to grant workers their rights, we are going to thoroughly study all proposals.”
Reiterating that the UAE has a clean record of protecting workers’ rights, he said the ministry would cover in its study the HRW’s proposals as well as opinions expressed by other parties.
An earlier statement issued by the ministry said the HRW did not accurately reflect either the progress that had been made in addressing labour issues or the seriousness with which the government was dealing with these issues.
However, the UAE government, the statement said, “welcomes constructive input and discussions from international bodies and organisations, with regard to the area of guest worker welfare in the country”.
Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East Director, said the Labour Ministry’s request for comments on the draft law represented an important step towards reform and transparency in the UAE. “And we hope that the Labour Ministry takes advantage of this process to revise the serious flaws in its draft law.”
She said the law failed to address a series of abuses against migrant workers, who comprise 95 per cent of the country’s workforce, and “are particularly at the risk of abuse”.
Further, she claimed, in a blatant contravention of international standards, the proposed law contains no provisions on workers’ rights to organise themselves and bargain collectively and explicitly punishes striking workers.
“The UAE must amend its draft law to respect workers’ rights to organise, bargain collectively and strike,” said Whitson, alleging that over the past one year, the authorities have been dealing with workers staging demonstrations, rather than addressing the poor working conditions that fuel labour unrest.
She pointed out that the draft law also violates international standards by arbitrarily excluding from its purview all domestic workers employed in private households, public sector workers, security workers and most farming and grazing workers, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.
“The government should extend equal labour protection to domestic workers instead of reinforcing the discrimination they already face,” she said.
Moreover, she said, the draft law discriminates against women workers and treats women workers as dependents rather than as competent adults with full and independent legal capacity.
The draft labour law, she claimed, also fails to incorporate the 2001 Dubai Court of Cassation ruling that prohibits employers from confiscating employees’ passports.
HRW officials also stressed the need for employment contracts and instructions to be made available to workers in a language they speak fluently to eliminate miscommunication of facts that further fuels the exploitation of migrant workers in the UAE.
Besides, they said there is a need for the government to enforce its labour laws by providing effective penalties for violations and stringent punishment to employers. The current law continues to provide weak financial penalties of between Dh 6,000 and Dh 12,000 for employers found violating the law, they added.
“The current fine of a few thousand dollars is no deterrent for employers with multi-million-dollar contracts,” said Whitson.
‘Jail time’ for woman with stolen watches
DUBAI — March 26: A woman has been sentenced to three years in jail, to be followed by deportation, for possessing 171 stolen wrist watches.
Upholding the lower court’s verdict, the Dubai Court of Cassation has found the woman, S.R.F., guilty of receiving the watches despite knowing that they were all stolen from well-known stores at BurJuman and Wafi shopping centres in Dubai.
The woman had received these wrist watches of brands like Frank Muller, Rolex, Pierre Qouns, and AWC, on March 10, 2006.
As per court records, the Dubai Court of First Instance on September 28, 2006, awarded the woman a jail term of three years, to be followed by deportation.
The accused contested the verdict at the Court of Appeal, which, on November 7, dismissed her plea and upheld the lower court’s ruling.
The woman then moved the Court of Cassation, arguing that the hotel room where the stolen watches were recovered was not her, and was leased to a man she identified as Nicola. She accused Nicola of putting the stolen items in the room.
However, the woman had earlier confessed to the crime when interrogated by the Prosecution.
Accordingly, the court dismissed her petition, and upheld the ruling of the two lower courts.
DM mulls ‘flexible working hours’
DUBAI — March 26: Can you choose your working hours? Obviously not! But the unthinkable may actually happen.
Dubai Municipality (DM) is mulling a “flexible working hours” system for its white collar employees.
The system, currently being studied by the Personnel Affairs Department at DM, has two main goals: improve the performance of its staff, and extract the maximum out of the official working hours.
The system proposes to give flexibility to the staff to decide about the working hours on their own. One of the purported objectives is also to help solve the traffic woes of office-goers, especially during the rush hours.
However, the scheme neither proposes to cut the total working hours nor the attendance of the staff. In fact, it will, as it envisages, encourage punctuality among staff.
Hamid Saed Al Muri, Section Manager of Personnel Affairs at the municipality said they had discussed three different timings for checking in and checking out of staff — 6.30am to 1.30pm, 7.30am to 2.30pm, and 8.30am to 3.30pm.
Al Muri, however, clarified that this system would be applied in only two of the departments of DM for two months, on an experimental basis, to study its effectiveness. It would be implemented in the other departments later.
Employers to be fined for false declaration of staff’s income
ABU DHABI — March 26: Employers will have to pay a fine of Dh 15,000 for each employee if they submit to the authorities incorrect information or forged details about any worker’s salary to get insurance premium at a lower price, a senior health official has warned.
“Any false declaration about the monthly income of an employee in a bid to get cheaper health insurance policy is considered a violation of the law that is punishable by a fine of Dh15,000 for each employee,” said Ibrahim Al Mousa, Executive Director of Finance and Administration at the General Authority for Health Services for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (GAHS).
The authorities have found out that some companies forge salary certificates of their employees to provide them with cheaper health insurance policies, which are decided on as per an employee’s monthly income. Al Mousa reiterated that employees with limited income of Dh 3,000 per month with accommodation or Dh 4,000 per month without accommodation are entitled to be covered by a ‘Basic Product Policy’, which is supported by the government of Abu Dhabi with an annual upper limit of Dh250,000 for every employee.
Regarding workers privately sponsored by UAE nationals or expatriates, the official made it clear that as per the health insurance law, people in this category must be covered by the Basic Product Policy. “Domestic helpers, nurses, nannies, drivers, construction and maintenance workers, cleaners, assistants, agricultural helpers and security personnel who are privately sponsored by nationals or expatriates must get the Basic Product Policy offered at an annual premium of Dh 600.”
About labourers involved in sub-contracts, the official stressed that companies, whose labourers are engaged in sub-contract businesses, are the parties responsible for providing these employees with health insurance cover.
“Companies which bring in workers and sign labour contracts with them will be responsible for providing health insurance coverage to employees even if they are engaged in external services to a third party through contractual agreements between the two companies,” clarified Al Mousa.
Dubai - Duo deny trafficking charges
Dubai - March 26: An elderly couple pleaded not guilty to charges of people trafficking and forging passports at a Dubai court yesterday. The Indian pair, AK, 60, and his wife MA, 55, were arrested on December 24 last year after authorities stopped them as they attempted to make their way to Paris with two young children.
It is alleged the children, who are from a village close to the couple’s home town, were to be put to work in the French capital. It is also claimed that AK and MA were paid dhs66,504 to carry out the operation. But in court yesterday AK denied all the charges.
“I didn’t trade them, their parents agreed [for us] to escort them, I will bring evidence on that,” he said. “I didn’t fake their passports but another person did that when we were in India.” The authorities became suspicious as they looked at the passports and asked the couple some questions about the children.
The trial was adjourned until next month to hear the childrens’ testimony.
Beware, cable pirates !!!
To protect the intellectual property rights of local cable operators, authorities have launched a campaign to clamp down on expats bringing in direct-to-home satellite receivers
DUBAI - March 26: UAE cable distributors have launched a campaign against channel piracy with the help of local authorities to catch those who have opted for illegal satellite pay-TV connections. They are targeting expats, especially from the subcontinent, returning to Dubai with direct-to-home (DTH) satellite receivers.
So far over 200 such receivers have been confiscated by the Customs at the Dubai International Airport following a ban notice on the same that was issued three weeks ago. This was just prior to the Cricket World Cup — a mustsee event for many expats from the subcontinent.
Arab Digital Distribution (ADD) and E-Vision in conjunction with the authorities, such as Arabian Anti Piracy Alliance (AAA) and Dubai Customs have in the meantime stepped up monitoring of illegal redistribution of signals through illegal receivers and illegal viewing in public areas.
“One of the recent additions to channel piracy has been the illegal import of Indian DTH receivers and smart cards,” says Vinod D’Mello, Executive Vice-President, Group Strategy and Planning, ADD, provider of e-Pehla packages. He says that the alliance is taking measures to reduce illegal viewing of TV channels to safeguard the intellectual property rights (IPR) of local cable operators during the high-viewership season.
“The UAE government has instructed the Customs authorities to confiscate the receivers at the airport,” says D’Mello. “In the last few days, there have been repeated seizures and the people who have bought these receivers from India have been left ruing their lost money.”
Earlier, there were no restrictions on Indians bringing in these receivers, commercially available from Dish TV and Tata Sky in India, to Dubai.
In UAE, and also across the GCC, these satellite receivers are able to pick up direct broadcast transmissions from India due to an extended satellite reception in the region. Many expats from the subcontinent prefer these portable Indian satellite receivers for practical reasons as they offer more than 150 homegrown TV channels for a price that is three times cheaper than the price package available here.
Meanwhile, cable distributors here have expressed confidence in the ongoing battle against signal theft, dismissing reports that a large section of their customers had unsubscribed or degraded their subscription. “A few among them may have been prompted to go in for such illegal receivers,” says Humaid Rashid Sahoo, CEO, E-Vision. E-Vision is in partnership with ADD in providing e-Pehla. “We are confident that our customers will appreciate the high level of service quality and customer service that E-Vision provides,” adds Sahoo.
“There may have been a small percentage of our subscribers who have discontinued their subscription, but the majority has been content with our programming quality,” says D’Mello. Officials from ADD and E-Vision say that they continue to receive reports of individuals and institutions violating the law across the GCC. Their only warning to unauthorised viewers and distributors is that the practice is illegal and can lead to prosecution under UAE laws. The IPR infringement penalty is imprisonment, deportation and a fine up to Dh 50,000.
But most of the returning expatriates carrying these items are unaware of the ban which was implemented three weeks ago, the same time the cricket fever pitched in.
“I saw a notice posted just after the immigration counter. It said that receivers such as the one I was carrying was not allowed and it should be declared,” said a returning Indian expatriate who was asked to surrender his receiver. “I know people have been carrying these before, I thought it’s not a problem.”