Labourers: know your rights
Help for low-paid workers to understand law
Labourers have been urged to report their bosses to the authorities “without hesitation” if they believe they are breaching UAE labour laws.
Labour ministry officials delivered the message to hundreds of low-paid workers at a ‘Know Your Rights’ event in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
The event at the ICAD camp in Musaffah involved workers being advised that they do not have to pay fees to recruitment agencies – something governments and many expat workers have long complained about.
Labour officials also told the workers that visa, travel and postal costs, for example, must not be borne by the employee.
“The employer should pay the costs of your recruitment and deployment - which includes fees paid to a private recruitment agency in the labourer’s country,” said Ali Ibrahim Al Shehhi, a labour relations officer. He said workers have the right to change jobs if they wish, under recently introduced changes to the law, although he said “appropriate notice” had to be given and agreed employment terms had to be completed.
7DAYS spoke to low-paid workers who said the event was a long-overdue eye opener.
Pakistani driver Amir Usman, 30, said: “I’ve been here for two years and miss my family and kids a lot. The only reason keeping me here was that I was under the impression I would owe my employer money if I left.
“Now I am at peace knowing I can leave once my contract is over, and I am under no obligation to sign a new one.”
Another worker, Bangladeshi Mohammed Ashfaq, 42, said he has lived in Abu Dhabi for almost two decades.
He said: “I did not know I actually had a place to go and complain if anything went wrong.
“What we think is, we are labourers - we either make the best of what we get or go back to our home country. Now I know where I can complain if I have any problems.”
Ashfaq also spoke of his living conditions. He told 7DAYS: “It varies between two to 10 people living in a room. If you are lucky you have less people. That is something we can’t do anything about. It is uncomfortable, but it is our home.” Pakistani Shezadullah Khan, 29, also said: “I used to hear about other jobs that pay better but thought since my employer brought me here, I could not leave. Now I can look for a change if a better job comes my way. I used to be scared to leave my current job.” Saqr Ghobash, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said: “The UAE is committed to providing all means of protection to workers’ rights.”