Update: Striking Arabtec workers deportedby Stephen White on Jan 27, 2011
71 Bangladesh nationals identified as instigating a strike involving 5,000 workers employed by Arabtec have been deported from Dubai, Bangladesh authorities have revealed.
As reported last week, the workers were rounded up by police after they were identified as ring leaders in a two-week strike over pay rises.
It is estimated that 5,000 workers employed by Arabtec first went on strike on 16 January to demand wage increases of Dhs200 ($55) from their average salaries of Dhs800-1,000 (depending on skill level). It was also reported that some workers claimed that they hadn't been paid for overtime work.
Dr Mohammed Abu Zafar, the consul general for Bangladesh has confirmed the worker protest had been a peaceful one but, with striking illegal in the UAE, the police had broken up the strike.
"Intelligence people identified them and are being deported to Bangladesh," he said yesterday.
The strike coincided with the visit of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed to the UAE the previous week who was scheduled to talk about the employment rights of Bangladesh workers in the country.
“There are many good things to talk about,” said one her advisors. “But there are some difficulties in some areas, including recruitment process and payment issues. We are hoping that together, we can improve the situation. We have a lot of labourers here, and we are always in touch with the UAE authorities regarding their problems but the issue is that they are primarily hired by the private companies.
“We have a committee to discuss this. She will talk to the Government to create a legal framework for issues such as transportation and compensation of pay.”
Taking the lead from his country’s leader, Dr Zafar said that the Bangladesh government could introduce a minimum wage for all its citizens in the UAE, and that it could in future demand the level was met before allowing its nationals to work for companies in the UAE.
Arabtec declined to comment when approached by constructionweekonline.com, but Dr Zafar told Bangladesh newspaper The Daily Star that Arabtec had agreed that workers would get overtime work when that was available, and in that case the monthly wage would be 800 dirham.
Dr Zafar said he supported Dubai’s decision not to bring criminal charges against the workers, and has not banned their re-entry in the future. He added that Arabtec had not breached the contract in paying the salaries, adding that if the workers had problems, they should have solved it through a dialogue with the employer with the help of the Bangladesh mission in Dubai.