Burj Dubai protest enters ninth day


Rob Corder , November 9th, 2007

Labourers working on the site of the world's tallest building entered are still refusing to return to work, nine days after they downed tools.

The workers have said they will not return unless demands for better salaries are met, sources have told Construction Week.

Thousands of labourers employed by Dubai's largest construction company Arabtec - about a third of the Burj Dubai's workforce - walked out on 31st October and have been holed up in their accommodation since then.

A consortium involving Arabtec, South Korea's Samsung and Besix of Belgium is building the Burj Dubai, which in June overtook Taiwan's 509-metre tower Taipei 101 as the tallest building in the world.

Sources close to the development said the labourers have been offered a pay rise, but been told it could take anywhere between a week and two months before they receive it.

Labourers, many of them Indian, are demanding an immediate increase in their salaries, claiming it is not worth them going back to work for the money they make because of the tumbling value of the US dollar against the rupee.

The UAE pegs its currency against the dollar, which is close to a nine-year low against the rupee.

Workers are demanding for salaries to be raised by at least $55. The company is currently paying unskilled workers $109 a month while skilled ones get $163, according to newswire AP.

It is common for construction workers in the UAE to make as little as 400 dirhams ($109) a month.

The ongoing action, one of several recent protests by construction workers in Dubai, has focused worldwide attention on the plight of labourers in the UAE, where strikes are illegal and trade unions are banned.

UAE Cabinet on Sunday called for an urgent review of construction workers' salaries, sparking speculation that the government could establish a minimum wage.

Venu Rajamany, India's Consul General in Dubai, said a government-set minimum wage looked increasingly probable.

"Setting a minimum wage could be one of the solutions to the problem," Rajamany said, quoted AP.

"When the labour ministry comes up with a figure after consultations with companies, that figure will be a benchmark below which no company can go."

Sources said work at on the Burj Dubai is still ongoing and the strike has not had a major impact on construction.

The Arabtec employees work at a hotel site that is part of the Burj Dubai, according to AP. Arabtec declined to comment.


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