Labourers' conditions improving, minister says

UAE has worked hard to upgrade its labour standards, according to Ali Abdullah Al Kaabi.

Better: labour standards have improved
Better: labour standards have improved

The UAE has worked hard to upgrade its labour standards over the past two years, according to HE Ali Abdullah Al Kaabi, the UAE Minister of Labour.

The comments were made at the Colombo Process - a ministerial consultation on overseas employment and contractual labour for countries of origin and destination in Asia - held in Abu Dhabi last week.

The consultation saw labour ministers and government officials from 21 countries discuss issues relating to guest workers including their protection, insurance schemes, rogue recruitment agents and salaries.

"‘Model workers' accommodation camps in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai are now poised to become housing standards across the UAE," said Al Kaabi.

"Health and safety has also become a key focus of our labour inspection mandate.

"We've introduced health protective measures, including mandatory work stoppage during the midday hours in the summer months for construction workers and employers must, by law, extend health insurance protection to contractual workers."

Al Kaabi added that aggressive action had been taken to protect workers' salaries by mandating that wages be directly deposited into bank accounts.

Heavy fines for non-payment of wages and granting a release from employer sponsorship to any worker who is owed more than two months' salary have also been imposed.

"We are fully committed to seeing to it that a guest contractual worker's temporary stay in our country is beneficial to both parties of a work contract, but we are also committed to strict enforcement of the law when it comes to those who are in our country illegally or those who violate the law otherwise.

"Furthermore, we are prepared to discuss with our counterparts in labour sending countries how we may be able to contribute to the process of workers' re-integration in their home countries upon departing our country at the end of their employment contract period. In our meeting of senior officials and experts, a number of far reaching ideas have surfaced."

The countries of origin include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam, while the destination countries include Bahrain, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

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