Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Men Who Make Dreams Come True...

The skies of dubai can never seen easily without at least one crane in your view. Industry experts cautiously estimate that 15% to 25% of the world's cranes are in Dubai. Presently. Dubai is experiencing a construction boon in Dubai and the UAE, in general is a much faster process than in any Western country.
Dubai, one of the leading business hub that has been facing criticism from the international community regarding the abusive labor practices. More than half of Dubai's one million people are poor immigrants from South Asia and the Philippines. The land of golden dreams has turned out to be a land of nightmare of thousands of workers.
Human Rights Watch on the November 12th, 2006 released a 71-page report on the appalling conditions faced by the UAE's migrant construction workers. Entitled 'Building Towers, Cheating Workers' the report is highly critical of the UAE Government and calls on them to hold employers accountable for breaking the law

Facts and Figure:
Number of expatriate workers in the UAE
2.738,000 million In 2005the number is a 17 per cent increase over 2004, when there were 2.342,000 expatriate workers recorded in the UAE.
Estimates: According to estimations from 10 consulates and embassies representing the bulk of UAE workforce, there are between 2.8 million to 3.4 million expatriates living in the UAE.
Where they come from: Estimates include residents and workers for some countries:

India: 1.1 million

Pakistan: 750,000

Bangladesh: 400,000? 500,000

Iran: 300,000? 400,000 (residents and workers)

Jordan: 200,000 (residents and workers)

Philippines: 200,000

Sri Lanka: 150,000 (officials suspect much higher figure in reality)

UK: 120, 000 (residents and workers)

Nepal: 70,000? 80,000

Lebanon: 60,000 (residents and workers)

Egypt: No figures available

Syria: No figures available

Number of workers in construction: 500, 000 workers directly in construction
Salary range of laborers: Unskilled workers: Dh400 to Dh650 skilled workers: Dh750 to Dh1, 500Other laborers: Between Dh2.5 to Dh6.5 an hour. (Source: Gulf News)

It is anticipated for the population of the UAE to reach 5 million in census reports that have yet to see the light of day. No official figures exist but it is generally accepted that the breakdown of the population is roughly as follows. There could, therefore, be as many as 2.5 million unskilled migrant workers in the UAE.

World Bank Facts
In the report of April 2003 on Global Development Finance, World Bank reckoned that the remittances sent home by migrant workers shot to $80 billion in 2002, up from $60 billion in 1998.
These payments are significant and stable sources of finance for the developing countries in comparison to the private lending and development assistance by authorities.
The major countries receiving large remittances include Bangladesh ($2.1 billion in 2001), Egypt ($2.9 billion), India ($10 billion), Indonesia ($1 billion), Jordan ($2 billion), Lebanon ($2.3 billion), Morocco ($3.3 billion), Pakistan ($1.5 billion), the Philippines ($6.4 billion), Sri Lanka ($1.1 billion) and Yemen ($1.5 billion).
(Source: World Bank Site)

Tracing back the Conditions of the workers :
The demonstrations and aggression by some laborers in the recent past are distressing and alarming. The construction companies have been facing the ire on numerous issues ranging from poor living conditions to less or sometimes ‘no salaries’. The unreasonable standards of food and accommodation to the workers have also been highlighted upon.
As reported by AFP and Reuters new agencies, a demonstration of immigrant workers was organized on September, 2005. The procession engulfed the discontent of thousands of workers who expressed their ire against the terrible living conditions and non-payment of salaries.
Another incident came to pass on the December 23rd 2005, when Dozens of unpaid workers protested against the authorities at their labor camp for 10 days. The workers had a cut off from the outside world and survived on dates from a nearby farm.
(Source: Prol-position newsletter)
These unorganized forms of protests are just the tip of the ice-berg and gradually, time has made us realized the true facts of the maltreatment of the expatriate workers. In the present context, ‘good treatment’ of workers just stays a mere paper promise with bare differences in the condition of the workers.
The HRW report highlights the fact that the workers toil hard to sum up the money for the arrangement of a work visa and pay the recruitment agency around US $2,000 to $3000. The workers are pressurized to repay the debts and receive an insignificant amount ranging from $106 to $250 per month, contrast starkly with the national average wage of $2,106 per month. It is not viable to change the employer visa once inside the country. It is unlawful to form association of union which the fundamental reason of an unorganized resistance or one voice against the ills committed on the expatriate workers.
The practice of confiscation of the passports of the workers for the duration of the stay in the UAE. They are kept as "security" to stop workers from leaving which is not news but a usual affair which id accepted as a part of the game.
There are scores of Human Right Watch reports and local media articles that raises copious abuses inflicted upon the workers and diverting the attention of the officials towards this imperative issue of human rights abuse.
A report of HRW featured the facts that included extremly low wages, several years of arrearage for the money spent for the process, withholding employees’ passports and hazardous working conditions to the point of being deadly, resulting in high death rates and injury.
Independent research by a construction trade publication, Construction Week, found that a total of 880 migrant construction workers died in the UAE in 2004: 460 from India, 375 from Pakistan and approximately forty-five from Bangladesh. As informed by the Indian consulate in Dubai, 971 death cases have been registered in 2005.”
(Source: From the Human Rights Watch Report - “Building Towers, Cheating Workers”)
With the passage of time, Dubai authorities have been working towards the betterment and the welfare of the workers. The Labor ministry is shouldering the responsibility of undertaking multiple steps in accordance with the international organization and international labor law. There have been many promises and inspections but one can never be certain without having a glimpse of the changes and improving conditions.

Steps proposed by government:
On the November 9, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai regulated the authorities to take fundamental measures to ensure the safety of the rights of the expatriate workers and significantly improving the living conditions.
There is an order to mushroom a mechanism that empowers workers to receive what is rightfully theirs. It is proposed to initiate a plan which enables the workers to switch jobs without any obstacles in accordance with the rules set by the UAE and the Ministry of Labor. The procedure concerning the change of job is an imperative scheme that will avoid inhibiting mobility.
There are negotiations regarding laws regarding a labor court, setting fixed working hours for domestic help and regulating the contracts of guest workers. A need of a watchdog to monitor the conditions of the workforce is a highlighting concern of the present. There are negotiations concerning this supervisory body. Provisions of health insurance schemes and a machinery to prevent delays in age payment of the workers are being initiated by the authorities.

Other measures projected to help laborers
- Creation of a specialized court for dealing with labor complaints and mistreatment cases.

- Setting up of a special inspection unit, comprising of 2,000 inspectors to monitor labor accommodations and workplaces.

- An urgent study to be conducted to investigate the roles and capabilities of labor supply companies, and to make sure that they comply with the laws and prevent them from abusing workers' rights.
(Source: Gulf News Report)

UAE’s agreement with 4 Asian countries:
A gulf news report accounted that a labor agreement is to be signed between the UAE and four Asian countries namely, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The agreement would leave no scope for the middlemen to take advantage of the laborers.
There would be a high degree of transparency among the parties regarding the structure, obligations and responsibilities. The countries will be receiving a draft of the Memorandum of understanding which is scheduled to be signed by the end of this year which is directed towards regulation of the entry of foreign workforce. We welcome this ‘swift response and inherent acknowledgement of the problem of abuse', but its vital to highlight the continuation of the ban on trade union, despite earlier promises to legalize the same.
We therefore hope that the new proposals don’t share the previous fate of broken promises and mushroom into a concrete solution for the workers, who are the base of the heights that Dubai has achieved in the past few years.

- AM

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