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!
Arabtec underpaid and exploited Construction Worker
DUBAI – Thousands of construction workers at Arabtec, the emirate’s largest construction company, hold second day of action over poor pay.
Thousands of workers employed by Dubai’s largest construction company have gone on strike for a second day to back their wage demands in a rare labour protest in the Gulf emirate, where trade unions are banned.
Workers employed by Arabtec, the company behind projects including the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa, did not show up for work on Sunday. Employees said the strike began on Saturday and that the workers were determined not to end it without a pay rise. “They are upset at the low wages and also about not being paid for overtime work,” one employee told the Reuters news agency. He said workers at his site were paid between $160 and $190 a month. The protest started in Abu Dhabi on Saturday and workers in Dubai have joined. Most blue-collar workers in the Gulf Arab states are migrant workers hired on a contract basis from South Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Migrant workers in Dubai are often employed at wages that are extremely low by Western standards and housed in dormitory-style accommodation on the outskirts of the city, part of the UAE, a regional business and tourism hub. The United Arab Emirates Labour Ministry told Reuters that a team of the ministry’s labour crisis management committee was “closely following the work stoppage”. The ministry added that Arabtec was paying the workers according to contracts it had signed with them, and said their accommodation was in compliance with labour regulations. It said the workers were receiving meals and had free transportation, housing and health insurance, services that it said were at least equal to their salaries.