United Arab Emirates
The ITUC does not have an affiliate in the United Arab Emirates.
Freedom of association / Right to organise
Categories of workers prohibited or limited from forming or joining a union, or from holding a union office:
- Other civil servants and public employees
- Labour legislation does not cover public sector workers.
- Export processing zone (EPZ) workers
- Although the EPZs are supposed to comply with the Labour Law, they are not regulated by the Ministry of Labour. Each zone has its own department to deal with workers’ issues.
- Agricultural workers
- Labour legislation does not cover anyone working in the agricultural sector.
- Domestic workers
- Labour legislation does not cover domestic workers.
Right to collective bargaining
Restrictions on the principle of free and voluntary bargaining:
- Exclusion of certain matters from the scope of bargaining (e.g. wages, hours)
- Wages are fixed in individual contracts that are reviewed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The Immigration Ministry performs this role for domestic employees, as most are foreign nationals.
Undermining of the recourse to collective bargaining and his effectiveness:
- Absence of appropriate mechanisms to encourage and promote machinery for collective bargaining
- The law does not recognise the right to collective bargaining.
Right to strike
Undue interference by authorities or employers during the course of a strike:
- Authorities' or employers''' power to unilaterally prohibit, limit, suspend or cease a strike action
- The Labour Minister is allowed to intervene to end a strike.
- Forcible requisitioning of workers strikers (apart from cases in public essential services)
- The Labour Minister is allowed to force workers to go back to work.
Limitations or ban on strikes in certain sectors:
- Undue restrictions for "public servants"
- Public sector workers and national security guards are not allowed to strike.
- Other limitations (e.g. in EPZs)
- Migrant workers are banned from going on strike. Those who do, or provoke a strike "without a valid reason" can be banned from working for a year, and if they are absent from work for more than seven days without a valid reason, can have their work permits cancelled and be deported.
Construction workers at the company Arabtec were striking to demand a 350 UAE dirham (92 US dollars) monthly food allowance to be paid with their salaries, rather than the three daily meals provided by the company. Workers earn 650 to 1,200 UAE dirham a month (from 177 to 327 US dollars). The company refused to negotiate with the workers and instead the Ministry of Labour sent the police to the labour camp to coerce workers to return to work. Even though management stated that all workers returned to work, several workers have stated that they received deportation orders.
Non-nationals account for over 88.5% of the population, and many of them are migrant workers. They are often prey to extreme exploitation: unpaid wages, excessively long working hours, passports confiscated by the employer, changes upon arrival to the contract they signed before leaving, etc. As domestic work is not covered by the labour legislation, domestic workers are even more vulnerable than migrants in other sectors. Many say they have suffered physical and sexual abuse, in addition to the exploitation migrants are usually exposed to.
As migrant workers do not have the right to join a union or go on strike
The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.
See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike , they don’t have the means to denounce the exploitation they suffer. Those who protest risk prison and deportation.
The pay protection system that has progressively been set in place since 2009 obliges companies to pay their workers’ wages via electronic bank transfer, that the authorities are able to verify. This measure has not been enough to prevent delays in the payment of wages however, notably because the Labour Ministry’s resources are far too meagre in face of the number of migrants.
A sponsorship system (“kafala”) continues to link migrant workers’ visas to an employer or “guarantor”, even though the terms were relaxed in 2011: at the end of a two year contract, the authorities allow unskilled workers to change job without a certificate of non-objection from their employer. The under-secretary at the Ministry of Labour has stated that if the clauses of the contract are breached, or if the worker is not paid, the Minister can end the contract.