NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
India backs off on wages move
DUBAI - AUG 09: Indian officials have backed off a decision to increase the minimum wage for Indian housemaids working in the Gulf after fears the women would be passed over for jobs. After authorities tried to raise wages to $400 (Dh1,469) per month, up from $163 (Dh600), Indian embassies and consulates in the region warned the demand for Indian housemaids could decline sharply.
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs sent a directive to its missions in the Gulf and immigration officials on August 1 that made it mandatory for all women travelling on an ECR passport – those who have not obtained a bachelor’s degree – to be paid the new minimum wage as of September 1.
More than 200,000 women from India work in the Gulf as housemaids and embassy officials said they feared most would lose their jobs if they demanded increased wages.
In response to complaints, the Indian Government revised its position. Emirates Today had access to a note sent to one of the embassies, which read: “Following an increasing number of complaints and concerns expressed by the Indian missions abroad, we have decided to put things on hold for the time being.” The ministry is now expected to come out with a revised wage plan for housemaids, said a senior Indian official.
“It will probably take another month. May be it will only be ready by October. The guidelines are quite good. It will definitely benefit the housemaids,” said the official, who went on to warn of potential repercussions.
“But employers will stop hiring Indian women. Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan women will get preference.We feel $250 (Dh918) will be ideal for housemaids,” added the official.
Philippines recently introduced a similar minimum wage of $400 per month for maids.Virginia Calves, Labour Attache at the Philippines Consulate in Dubai, applauded the Indian proposal.
She said although there was a slight slump in the number of housemaids’ recruitments during the first three months after the Philippines imposed the new wage, things are slowly falling into place.
MAIDS JUBILANT BUT EMPLOYERS SCEPTICAL
DUBAI - AUG 09: While Indian housemaids have welcomed news that their government may soon raise their minimum wage, some employers have said the increase is too much.
Emirates Today spoke to Indian women who will be affected by the new pay rise and their employers in the UAE. While all the maids were happy with the hike, 80 per cent of the employers opposed the move.
Shakeela Hussain, a 43-year-old housemaid from Kerala, said: “If this can be properly implemented, there is nothing like it. I still cannot believe that such a directive has been issued. At present I am only getting a monthly salary of Dh1,000.” Neha Gupta, 33, an Indian mother of a baby, said the new guideline will force her to hire an illegal housemaid or go for other nationalities.
“There is no way we can afford to spend Dh20,000 to Dh30,000 every year to hire a housemaid,” said Gupta.
Khadija Ahmed, a 28-year-old Egyptian, said the hike was too much.
“Twice I spent money to bring a housemaid [to the UAE] and on both occasions they ran away. I lost all the money I spent on bringing them here,” said Ahmed. “Today the roles have changed and they act like masters and we have to bear all their tantrums for fear that they may decide to run away.”
Vatican hails UAE’s tolerance
ABU DHABI — AUG 09: The Vatican has hailed the policy of tolerance and dialogue pursued by the UAE under the leadership of the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
In a message to the information office of Shaikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue, said the UAE was reputed for its religious tolerance and keenness to promote dialogue and understanding among cultures and religions.
He lauded a recent symposium organised by the information office of the Deputy Prime Minister as a positive contribution towards promoting dialogue.
Major traffic diversion in Sharjah from tomorrow
SHARJAH — AUG 09: As part of the Sharjah government’s massive road development project, a major traffic diversion is being introduced from tomorrow.
The Sharjah Police and the Public Works Department will open alternative routes in order to facilitate the Al Wahda Road expansion project.
The diversion involves a number of new alternative routes. Motorists from the Northern Emirates and eastern areas heading to the City Centre will have to use Shaikh Khalid bin Saqr Square towards Al Heera Corniche Street, Ring Road, Al Arooba Street and motorists from Dubai heading towards the Northern Emirates and eastern areas will have to use the Ring Road, Al Arooba Street and Al Heera Corniche street.
Motorists from Dubai heading for Sharjah via Al Wahda Road would have to use the Ring Road, Al Arooba Street and Heera Corniche.
The motorists from Wasit Square heading towards Al Wahda will have to use the route incorporating three ways which start from Wasit Square passing by Culture Square and Mohammed bin Sultan bin Alian Square and Khalid bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Square through Shaikh Zayed Road near the labour office to Al Wahda Street near the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services. All the above mentioned squares through which the alternative route is passing have been changed to intersection with signal lights.
Motorists from Al Wahda Street heading towards the Sharjah Airport will have to use the route that starts from Al Ghubaiba through Shaikh Zayed Road of Sharjah and pass by Dasman Area to reach Wasit Square through Shaikh Rashid bin Saqr Al Qasimi near Culture Square.
Engineer Shaikh Khalid bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Director-General of Sharjah Department of Public Works said the road development project in the emirate is one of the long-term plans being implemented on the directives of His Highness Dr. Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.
Instruction boards have been installed at the diversions and new routes have been installed and motorists are being notified through media. The number of Anjad patrols to supervise traffic movement in the new routes, intersection and traffic signal has also been increased.
Mixed response to Indian’s decision to cut baggage limit
DUBAI — AUG 09: The announcement by Indian on Tuesday (August 7) that it will allow passengers to carry only 30kg of baggage instead of 40kg, has evoked mixed response from the Indian expatriates in Dubai.
Abhay Pathak, regional manager-Gulf of Indian, said the airline had to resort to revising its baggage policy but it might reconsider its decision subject to market condition.
“Because of the current climate condition, with high temperatures and the monsoon rains, we need to carry more fuel on board, which leaves us with tight payload/cargo capacity. Thus, we had to introduce the new baggage policy that will be applicable to tickets purchased after August 7,” he said.
Pathak added that as per the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations, passengers are allowed to take in only 20kg of luggage on board. “I believe Indian has been gracious over the past years in allowing passengers to carry 40kg of baggage. The revised baggage allowance is still higher than the 20kg IATA standard,” he pointed out.
Thomas Shabu, a sales executive at Concord Travels and Tours, said they had been receiving feedback from customers who had purchased tickets for their trips to India this month.
“The airline flies to destinations in India where most of the blue-collared workers are residing like Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Jaipur. These workers often go home once in two years so they expect to carry more luggage with them,” he said.
Shabu said that for economy class passengers, an excess baggage will cost around Dh63 per kg. “If a passenger has an excess baggage of 10kg, then he/she would have to shell out Dh630, which is quite a hefty amount,” he added.
Krishna Priya Nair, a Dubai resident who is originally from Pune, said that while the new baggage policy of Indian may not affect her personally, it may pose serious concern for other travellers.
“Personally, I do not want to travel with too much baggage. But in a country that expects overseas-based friends and relatives to bring gifts, the reduced baggage allowance policy could mean a lot. This holds true to people who rarely have the opportunity to go home,” she said.
Shiv Kumar, another expatriate, agreed that the previous 40kg allowance was substantial enough for workers travelling once in two years. “It’s quite sad because Indian workers do not just look forward to going home, but also wish to carry gifts for their loved ones,” he said.
Authorities destroy ‘expired’ medicines
ABU DHABI — AUG 09: In the past seven months, the Federal Health Authority has confiscated a large quantity of ‘expired’ medicines, including children’s syrups, from pharmacies in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates, stated a senior health official.
“Over the past seven months, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has seized thousands of drugs from private pharmacies and medical stores across the emirates, which had crossed the expiry dates,” said MoH Assistant Under-Secretary Humaid Mohammed Al Shamsi.
He said the confiscated drugs were destroyed in order to ensure safety of the public and to avert any possible health hazards posed by consumption of expired drugs.
Inspection teams from the MoH reported that the seized drugs included those that are prescribed for treatment of diabetes and hypertension, said the official.
“The confiscated quantity included 131 expired syrups used for treating diarrhoea and cough. In addition, 99 expired vitamin injections, and 435 antibiotic capsules were also seized,” said Al Shamsi. Also seized were 3,866kg of chemicals and liquids used for making medicines, and 87 topical medications the majority of which were skin bleaching and complexion creams.
Rajamony meets police officials
DUBAI — AUG 09: The Indian Consul-General in Dubai, Vinu Rajamony, visited the Dubai Police Headquarters yesterday where he met Brigadier Jamal Al Marri, acting Chief of Dubai Police, and discussed with him ways of strengthening cooperation between the Indian consulate and the Dubai police.
The meeting also discussed matters relating to Indians expatriates in Dubai, and the steps to facilitate procedures for amnesty seekers to either regularise their status or return to their home country.
During his tour of Al Fuhaidi Hall he was accompanied by Colonel Khalil Al Mansouri. The consul was informed about the measures taken to help the amnesty seekers.
Al Mansouri said that the Dubai Police received around 500 to 700 amnesty seekers per day last month, and the number went as high as 2, 000 people per day since the beginning of August.
Air Arabia call center now 24 hours a day
SHARJAH — AUG 09: Air Arabia has extended its call centre timings in the UAE to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the convenience of its customers. The call centre provides customers with the opportunity to make, modify and pay for bookings via the telephone.
Extending the call centre services in the UAE has also been complimented by Air Arabia’s web site. These initiatives will give customers wider options to reach Air Arabia either by phone or via the Internet at any time of the day.
“We are always seeking new ways to reach out to our customers throughout the Middle East and the world,” said Kyle Haywood, Air Arabia’s commercial director.
Air Arabia may be reached through its call centre number +(971) 6 5580000, which is open to all callers both domestic and international. Customers can also make bookings on www.airarabia.com.
Change is a bridge too far
DUBAI - AUG 09: An appeal for a change to the floating bridge’s opening times for Creek dinner cruise operators has been rejected by the Roads and Traffic Authority. The bridge is opened so boats can pass through between 10pm and 6am. This means – as Emirates Today reported on Monday – that the early-evening dinner cruises cannot go through.
The operators wanted the opening time changed to 9pm – but the RTA has refused to authorise the move.
The authority has held intensive talks with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing to find a solution to the problem since the story appeared.
“The tourist department has informed us that the RTA has declined the cruise operators’ request about timings,” said Nouras Abdul Kareem Hamid, Marketing Manager of Al Boom Tourist Village.
“According to the RTA, the timings have been set according to a study of the road traffic impact of the bridge and have been approved by authorities concerned.
“The RTA also informed the tourist department that any change to the bridge’s timings would have a negative impact on the road traffic.” Al Boom Tourist Village operates dhow dinner cruises on the Creek.
The tourism department has received a number of calls and e-mails about the issue from cruise operators.
An official said:“Initially, the RTA planned to open the bridge for road traffic between 7am and 9pm. But now the timings have been changed from 6am to 10pm. By the time they stop the road traffic and clear the way for boats and yachts, it becomes 10.15pm.
“Since the normal dhow dinner operations are from 8pm until 10.30pm, most of them are unable to go around the Creek Golf andYacht Club and Creek Park area.” Meanwhile, reports that the opening timings for road traffic were to be reduced have been denied by the RTA.
“There is no decision to change the floating bridge timings,” said a spokesman for RTA. “What you heard is only rumour.”
Transport chief outlines need to streamline services
DUBAI - AUG 09: Services provided to motorists by the vehicle licensing department must be streamlined, Dubai’s transport chief has declared. The time taken to deliver services must be reduced to the minimum, said Mattar AlTayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the Roads and Transport Authority. And cases must be processed in record time in line with best international practices.
“It is vital to implement the principle of decentralisation in delivering services so that the procedures for processing the payment of traffic fines can be simplified and completed easily and smoothly,” he said.
“Equally important is the development of an archive and indexing system to facilitate data retrieval on demand and intensifying the application of modern technology to establish a database of traffic information.” Al Tayer was speaking during an inspection tour of the headquarters of the Traffic and Roads Agency’s Licensing Department in Deira and the Eppco Tasjeel Centre in Al Barsha.
Dubai - Fire sparks charity
Dubai - Aug 09: Scores of generous Dubai natives have come forward with offers of support for the thousands of workmen who lost their belongings in a fire in Jebel Ali on Tuesday.
“We would like to help them in any way we can by providing food, clothing and toiletries to these poor workers,” said Elle Trow, founder of Helping Hands, a welfare group that supports construction workers in UAE.
“The main concern however, is to establish contact with these workers to help them during these tough times.” At least ten cabins were gutted at the Robust Contracting labour camp, leaving many workers with just the overalls they had worn for work.
And some devastated labourers said they lost all the little savings they had gathered over the past few years. 7DAYS was inundated with calls from concerned readers, worried about the mens’ plight. However, despite these pledges of support, people were finding it almost impossible yesterday to speak to anyone who could put them in touch with those affected by the blaze.
“I am really moved. This is such a tragedy and I would really like to help in any way possible,” said one caller. Meanwhile, the men have been moved to a number of different camps in Sharjah. And despite being glad of the shelter, one worker said it had been a hard experience as some had to make do with sleeping on the floor.
“It was a tough night for us. We were accommodated with other workers in cabins. Some even had to sleep in the open,” he said.
Dubai Civil Defence is still investigating the cause of the fire, while Robust Contracting has said that everything is now under control and it is working on a suitable compensation package for the labourers.
Dubai - Missing man flight mystery
Dubai - AUG 09: The family of a missing Indian man checked with airlines and immigration officials yesterday after they received information that he may have left the country.
Naveen Vishwanathan mysteriously disappeared last Thursday evening after he left home to spend an evening with his friend in Sharjah. The family told 7DAYS that they received some information that Naveen may have left the country and could be back in India.
“There was a rumour that he left to go to Chennai. But we checked out all possibilities and there is still no clue. This means he is still here,” said a relative. Vishwanathan’s wife and two-year-old daughter have already returned to India as they were unable to handle the anxiety after Naveen’s disappearance.