Dubai, an Empire entirely built on slavery

Burj Dubai

The Burj Khalifa

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A strike at Arabtec has ended after police entered labour camps and immigration services issued a series of deportation notices.

Backed by security forces, bosses at Arabtec, a massive Dubai construction firm with massive interests across the oil-rich Gulf States, ended their construction workers strike, but the fallout continues as more workers are receiving deportation orders.

The strike ended after management refused to accept demands for increased wages from people earning about $200 a month to complete mega-projects in 40 degree Celsius heat. Unions and strikes are illegal in Dubai and across the Gulf. Worker demands varied from a monthly pay raise of between $100-$135, while others wanted free food. Arabtec, Dubai’s largest construction firm, has tens of thousands of employees and contracts to work on the city’s airport, the Abu Dhabi branch of the Louvre museum, and other high-profile projects.

Unions and strikes are illegal across the Gulf and in Dubai, an autonomous city and part of the United Arab Emirates where the press is censored; even public demonstrations are considered illegal. Most of the cheap labour of Dubai lives in Sonapur, a barracks-style labour camps guarded by private security and home to about 200,000 migrant workers. Known for its Ferraris, “seven-star” hotels and other ostentatious displays of wealth, less than 20 percent of the UAE’s roughly 7.9 million residents are citizens. To attain citizenship, a person must usually demonstrate a blood connection on the father’s side to the Emirates’ original inhabitants and under the kefala system, a worker’s legal status in the country is tied to his employer.

Supporters of Dubai’s economic model say a lack of collective bargaining rights is good for workers, as it leads to more growth and job creation.

To what I say: Fuddle duddle!


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