5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

United Arab Emirates

The ITUC does not have an affiliate in the United Arab Emirates.

In practice

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Construction project pulls out of talks to improve working conditions17-04-2016

On 17 April 2016, the Director of the Guggenheim Museum announced it was breaking off negotiations with the Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC), a group of international artists that since 2010 have been working to ensure that migrant worker rights are protected during the construction of museums on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. The island is being developed by the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) to serve as a regional arts hub featuring world-class branches of the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Guggenheim.
More than five years after Human Rights Watch (HRW) first revealed systematic human rights violations of migrant workers there, serious concerns remain about violations of workers’ rights on the island. An updated report published in February 2015 found that some employers continue to withhold wages and benefits from workers, fail to reimburse recruiting fees, confiscate worker passports, and house workers in substandard accommodations. Similar findings emerged in a recent labour audit by Pricewaterhouse Coopers.
The government has also “summarily deported Saadiyat workers who have gone on strike 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
in protest at low pay after their employers contacted the police” say HRW. Trade union rights are not protected in law for migrant workers, and strikes are prohibited.
The Guggenheim objected to the very high profile protests organised by the GLC, which it felt exerted unfair pressure, saying the coalition had not reciprocated the museum’s cooperative efforts. Further pressure was added when the GLC urged the Museum and TDIC to negotiate with other rights organisations, including HRW, the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
, the ITUC and the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI). But, the GLC said, “Guggenheim did not respond positively to any of these invitations.”

Riot police deployed to quell protest10-03-2015

Riot police were deployed when hundreds of migrant workers employed by Emaar Properties, the developer of the Fountain Views project, staged a protest on 10 March 2015. Public protests are illegal in the UAE, and migrant workers do not have the right to go on strike 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 were protesting principally over their very low basic salaries and the fact overtime had been stopped, preventing them from supplementing their low pay. Agreement was reached in just over an hour of negotiations and the protest was called off without any violence or arrests.

Labour law amendment should see more Emiratis in private sector, minister says09-06-2015

Proposed amendments to the labour law will promote greater participation of Emiratis in the private sector by narrowing the gap in working conditions between the public and private sectors. Protecting workers’ rights and upholding legitimate interests of business owners are principles enshrined in Ministry of Labour tenets, according to state news agency Wam.

Use of a new standard employment contract to ensure greater transparency will soon be mandated.

Often anecdotal evidence and particular cases in which labour standards are not up to the federal standards are used to make unsubstantiated generalisations.

The minister described the Tasheel service centres as a model of public-private sector partnership that has helped contribute to Emiratisation.

Regarding partnerships with other government agencies, the ministry had a tie-in with the judicial system, whereby labour disputes that could not be resolved amicably through arbitration arbitration A means of resolving disputes outside the courts through the involvement of a neutral third party, which can either be a single arbitrator or an arbitration board. In non-binding arbitration, the disputing parties are free to reject the third party’s recommendation, whilst in binding arbitration they are bound by its decision. Compulsory arbitration denotes the process where arbitration is not voluntarily entered into by the parties, but is prescribed by law or decided by the authorities.

See conciliation, mediation
by the labour office are dealt with via public prosecutors.

RTA to review Dubai taxi drivers’ long working hours09-06-2015

The Roads and Transport Authority is reviewing working conditions for taxi drivers, who spend dangerously long hours behind the wheel. Almost all drivers approached from the six taxi companies in Dubai say they work seven 12-hour days a week. Some work for 10 months a year.

The UAE Labour Law states adult workers should work a maximum of eight hours a day, six days a week. Any hours above that should be classed as overtime and earn an extra 25 per cent of the basic wage. Drivers are not paid a salary but in commission, and receive no overtime payments.

The RTA is studying working conditions of taxi drivers from different aspects and considering the coordination with the applicable laws to ensure the working conditions of taxi drivers are enhanced.

Filipinos in UAE speak out against deceptive recruitment01-06-2014

Filipino workers being sent to non-existent jobs in Dubai have highlighted the desire of recruiters to increase profits through deception and circumventing the law. Thirty Filipinas who came to work in Dubai had fled their employers’ homes and sought refuge at a makeshift shelter inside the Philippine overseas labour office in Al Ghusais.

The women were told they would be working in sectors such as the hospitality industry, but ended up as household workers when they arrived in Dubai. They were hired for jobs such as waitresses, front-desk officers, receptionists, pool attendants, cooks, sales clerks and cleaners.

Copies of their sworn statements against their recruiters were sent to Manila, along with a report prepared by Delmer Cruz, the labour attaché in Dubai.

At least 21 Philippine-based agencies were named in Mr Cruz’s report. They resorted to an illegal practice called reprocessing by passing off a domestic worker as some other type of worker to avoid stringent recruitment requirements.

Most of the reprocessing cases happened even before the Philippine labour office in Dubai stopped verifying contracts in June after a new standard contract for domestic staff produced by the Ministry of Interior took effect on June 1 last year. Last week, Manila’s labour department instructed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (Poea), which oversees the licensing of recruitment agencies, to investigate the rogue agencies. These agencies now face suspension or cancellation of their licences.

Mr Cruz had also submitted a separate report on the illegal recruitment and human trafficking cases involving nine Filipinas. “In the past two months, we have admitted nine human trafficking victims,” he said. “And just this month, we received four more victims.” The women were issued UAE tourist visas and hired by individuals instead of recruitment agencies licensed by the Poea in Manila. They were made to exit the Philippines either from Kalibo Airport or by boat from Zamboanga to Sandakan in Malaysia. They later used the Kuala Lumpur-Colombo-Dubai route, travelling in batches of five to ten persons per airline, “They were issued dummy return tickets and hotel bookings to show they’re genuine tourists when in fact they came here to work. We need to warn job-seekers not to fall victim to human trafficking and illegal recruitment.”

Nepali ban on housemaids coming to UAE to continue31-07-2014

Nepal has stopped allowing its citizens to move abroad to work as domestic helpers since July 2014 after widespread complaints of exploitation and harassment, particularly in GCC countries. Nepal’s envoy to the UAE clarified his government’s position, saying that although there was no official ban, no Nepalese was allowed to find work overseas in that capacity for the time being.

Nevertheless, it is believed that many Nepalese have moved abroad under false pretences. For instance, some were issued with a foreign visa to work as cleaners by an employment agency before working as housemaids.

At the Nepalese embassy’s safe house in Abu Dhabi, there are 10 Nepalese housemaids who have fled from their sponsors.

The maids are exploited by false lucrative promises, and then fall into the clutches of these unscrupulous employment agents. The embassy blamed registered employment agents in the UAE for luring Nepalese women into the country with false promises of work as cleaners, saleswomen and security jobs, but later forced them to work as maids.

Some maids have to stay at the embassy’s shelter for four to five months, and some leave for home in two weeks’ time, depending on their matter being resolved.

UAE considering standardised contract for domestic workers31-03-2015

In March 2015 the Higher Committee for Consumer Protection considered standardising the recruitment contracts for domestic workers. The contract, to be introduced for the first time in the UAE, was drafted by a joint committee of the ministries of health, interior, economy and labour in collaboration with departments of economic development.

The Ministry of Economy has prepared a field study on the domestic help sector after receiving consumer complaints about delays bringing workers into the country, issues with hiring agencies and losing money paid to those agencies.

The contract aims to provide guarantees for both parties to a contract and set obligations for domestic help recruitment agencies.

A new standard contract for domestic staff took effect on Sunday that guarantees the rights of both workers and their employers. Recruitment agencies believe the new deal will ensure that housemaids receive the wages and benefits they have been promised, and therefore reduce the number of runaways.

Domestic workers are not protected by laws enforced by the Ministry of Labour. Their employment is regulated instead by the Ministry of Interior, which has produced the new contract. The new contract would allow the employer and the maid to agree on a salary.

The old contract, provided by Abu Dhabi immigration, does not mention a weekly day off. It states that “the work, including adequate breaks, is required with the agreement of both parties”.

The maids’ working hours should be fixed at eight hours daily; employers will be obligated under the new contract to pay for the full cost of their maids’ medical care.

Employers illegally forcing staff to pay for UAE visa renewal09-06-2015

Unscrupulous employers are illegally charging staff up to Dh15,000 every two years for the renewal of their employment visas. The practice is common among small-business owners and most of the victims are from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, working in the tailoring industry and in grocery shops. They remain silent out of fear for their jobs.
On some occasions workers were promised far higher pay in their home country only to come to the UAE after having paid thousands for their visa to be on a far lower wage.

Some come in debt; they sell their home, land and other belongings back home to come here. And they don’t get the job they were promised once they reach here. And it’s usually people of their own nationality who trick them and make them pay for their visa and take advantage of their vulnerability. Some pay in full. It depends on the business.

NYU to compensate Abu Dhabi campus construction workers09-06-2015

New York University has said it will pay compensation to workers at its site on Saadiyat Island who were affected by what an independent report has called a “compliance gap”. The university said in a statement that it welcomed the report, which it said confirmed that NYU and its local partner, Tamkeen, “made good faith efforts” to set standards that protected most of about 30,000 people who worked on the construction of its Abu Dhabi campus.

The gap affected workers servicing small or short-term sub-contracts – about a third of the total workforce, most of whom worked during the final stages of construction. Accordingly, they will provide payment to those workers who were not covered by the compliance monitoring programme to bring their compensation into line with what they should have received under labour standards. NYU and Tamkeen will appoint an independent third party to implement this process, and we commit to ensuring that we will not allow such a compliance gap to occur in the future.

NYUAD adopted a policy of reimbursing those fees where a worker could provide evidence that he had to pay them; it wants to be “part of the solution around the recruitment fees challenge”. It is planning to launch a research initiative through the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute to “develop greater understanding of this issue”.

Human Rights Watch: U.A.E. Developer Violates Worker Rights 09-06-2015

Serious concerns about workers’ rights have not been resolved for a high-profile project in Abu Dhabi that will host branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums and a campus of New York University (NYU), Human Rights Watch said in a report. These institutions should make their continued engagement with the Saadiyat Island project contingent on the developers’ commitment to more serious enforcement of worker protections and the compensation of workers who suffered abuses, including those arbitrarily deported after they went on strike 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

The 82-page report, “Migrant Workers’ Rights on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates: 2015 Progress Report,” is the third Human Rights Watch report on migrant worker abuses on the Saadiyat Island site. The report details how, five years after Human Rights Watch revealed conditions of forced labor on Saadiyat Island, some employers are withholding workers’ wages and benefits, failing to reimburse them for recruiting fees, confiscating workers’ passports, and housing them in substandard accommodations. In the most serious cases, contractors working for the two government development entities on the NYU and Louvre sites apparently informed United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities about the strike 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
, leading to the arbitrary deportation of several hundred striking workers.

“The progress in respecting workers’ rights on Saadiyat Island risks being tossed out the window if workers know they can’t protest when things go wrong, and are still getting stuck with recruitment fees and suffering other abuses,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “NYU, the Louvre, and the Guggenheim need to make clear that new laws and codes of conduct are only as good as their enforcement.”

While the abuses concern a small percentage of the workers, the serious problems, which mirror the findings of independent monitors, reveal a gap in enforcement of the UAE development partners’ stated commitments. Workers on the NYU site are supposedly protected by a code of conduct implemented by the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority and monitored by Mott McDonald. Workers on the Louvre and Guggenheim sites are protected by a code of conduct implemented by the Tourism, Development and Investment Company (TDIC) and monitored by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Though the government’s developers have never granted access to the site, Human Rights Watch spoke to 116 present and former employees of contractors on Saadiyat Island projects.

The UAE has changed its labour law to allow workers to change employers without their consent and to revoke the licenses of agents who charge workers recruitment fees. New codes of conduct regulate contractors on the NYU and museum sites. But workers still endure serious abuses, including summary deportation, Human Rights Watch said.

Workers from BK Gulf, a contractor at the NYU site, and Arabtec, a contractor at the Louvre site, told Human Rights Watch that the UAE authorities arbitrarily detained and deported several hundred workers in separate and unrelated strikes in May and October 2013.

“They [the UAE authorities] arrested everyone they could get their hands on,” said one former BK Gulf worker, who described the arrests, which he and others said were led by a group of masked police officers, as “terrifying”. Another worker said Dubai police slapped and pushed him in an interrogation, and demanded to know who had organised the strike 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
, which the men said led to more than 200 deportations. Neither BK Gulf nor the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority responded to questions about the incident.

An Arabtec worker detained and then deported over a strike 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
in October 2013 said he is still trying to pay back people in Bangladesh who loaned him the money to pay a US$2,600 recruitment fee, for which his employer had not reimbursed him.

In response to letters from Human Rights Watch, Arabtec said that it agreed to some of the workers’ demands but that “a number of employees were not prepared to accept these arrangements and asked to be repatriated.” UAE media reported that the authorities cancelled the visas of 467 Arabtec employees after the strike 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

The code of conduct that protects workers on the NYU site does not appear to have any penalty policy associated with it. The Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority did not respond to requests for information in that regard.

Unpaid overtimes in construction sector10-03-2015

Hundreds of workers took to the streets on Tuesday 10 March 2015 in protest at pay rates for overtime. The protesters, employed by the Arabic Construction Company on the Fountain Views development behind The Dubai Mall, blocked traffic on Financial Centre Road in Downtown Dubai. Police formed lines to control the demonstration.

The workers wanted to be paid four hours’ wages for working two hours’ overtime or have an increase in their salaries. The problem was not that the company was not paying workers on time, but about the workers asking for a review of how overtime compensation is calculated.”

The strikes that had taken place before were usually in more remote areas, such as labour camps. It is potentially a criminal offence and can result in prosecution.”

Migrant labourers killed by fire that swept through illegal accommodation in Abu Dhabi09-06-2015

At least ten migrant workers have been killed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by a fire that tore through the warehouse they were sleeping in.

It spread to a two-storey warehouse that had been illegally rented out as accommodation to the workers and gutted the building before firefighters could extinguish the flames.

Eight people were injured, police said, and ten bodies have been found. The victims, who have not been named, were of different nationalities.

Last year, many organisations called on the United Nations to investigate the “international scandal” of migrant work in the UAE, saying human rights abuses were present even others, including the building supervisor.

Police ends strike and deports migrant workers23-05-2013

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.

Exploitation of migrant workers03-02-2012

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 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.

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