Posted by: Lister | November 18, 2007

Exploitation in Dubai, UAE

Lawrence Donegan points to 20m reasons to ignore Dubai’s rotten record of exploitation:

The fanfare will sound next Monday when the European tour officially announces it will be staging the most lucrative golf tournament in the history of the game. Twenty million dollars (£10m) at stake over four days on a course in Dubai. Nice work if you can get it, or at least nicer work than the work done by the immigrant labourers in the so-called “world’s greatest tourist destination” who went on strike last week in support of a claim that would see their wages rise from £52 a month to £79.

The good news is the labourers got their rise. The bad news they returned to a life – to quote the 2006 Human Rights Watch report Building Towers, Cheating Workers – of “wage exploitation, indebtedness to unscrupulous recruiters and working conditions that are hazardous to the point of being deadly”.

I looked up what HRW said back in 2006:

Based on extensive interviews with workers, government officials and business representatives, the 71-page report, “Building Towers, Cheating Workers,” documents serious abuses of construction workers by employers in the UAE. These abuses include unpaid or extremely low wages, several years of indebtedness to recruitment agencies for fees that UAE law says only employers should pay, the withholding of employees’ passports, and hazardous working conditions that result in apparently high rates of death and injury.

After a string of highly publicized strikes and labor demonstrations earlier this year, the UAE government promised to respect workers’ rights by legalizing trade unions and vigorously enforcing the country’s labor laws, which are relatively good on paper. But the Human Rights Watch report demonstrates that the government has still failed to do so. Human Rights Watch found no public record of an employer in the construction industry forced to pay a substantial fine or suffer any criminal liability even when found guilty of violating labor law.

So there are laws in the UAE to protect workers. The problem is enforcing local laws.



  1. wow

  2. The BBC:

    It is the promise of a land of opportunity that has brought an estimated one million migrant workers to Dubai. Most come from areas of extreme poverty in the Indian sub-continent where they are easy prey for recruitment agents. Paying up to £2,000 to make the trip, the sum often has to be borrowed or family land sold in the belief that within 18 months the debt can be repaid.

    […] [Instead] None had been paid the money they were promised by the recruitment agencies, and many said they couldn’t afford to eat properly, living on a diet of potatoes, lentils and bread. Average salaries are often no more than £120 a month. This for a six-day week, often working up to 12-hour shifts. One company paid approximately 30p an hour for overtime.

    […] [UNEC] said it only recruited through one agency in India, but the workers we spoke to came from elsewhere.

    The First Group said its own checks had confirmed that the pay and conditions at the camp were legal.

    […] Armed with a secret camera we sneaked into the camp to be met with the smell of raw sewage. Sewage had leaked out all over the camp, and workers had to create a network of stepping stones to cross it and get back to their accommodation blocks. One toilet block had no water supply and the latrines were filled with piles of raw faeces.

    Documents obtained by us showed that a month previous to our visit, the Dubai authorities described the sewage situation at the site as critical. Arabtec had been fined 10,000 dirhams, approximately £2,000, for allowing sewage to overflow into workers’ accommodation.

    […] Arabtec said it did not accept that there were unsanitary conditions at any of its camps’ toilets. It blamed the workers, saying, despite training, their “standards of cleanliness and hygiene are not up to your or our standards” and that the toilet block we had filmed in may have been a block that was meant to be closed.

    It now says it is concerned about the situation, and despite originally blaming the problems on a nearby sewage plant, admitted sewage in the camp was a constant problem it was battling to resolve. They said the camp was a temporary one and all workers will be moved out in eight months.

    The New Pharaohs.

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