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Gulf forum may produce guidelines for labour

Alex Zalami, advisor to the UAE Minister of Labour, International Affairs on the innovations and guidelines that have come out of the Gulf Forum on Temporary Contractual Labour that was held in Abu Dhabi last month.

INTERVIEWS

Alex Zalami, advisor to the UAE Minister of Labour, International Affairs on the innovations and guidelines that have come out of the Gulf Forum on Temporary Contractual Labour that was held in Abu Dhabi last month.

What did the Ministry of Labour (MOL) hope to achieve from the labour contractual meeting that was held last week?

We were hoping that the meeting would be the first in a series of meetings. What we were hoping to accomplish, essentially, was not to resolve issues here but rather to lay the stage for sustained dialogue between labour receiving countries and labour sending countries.

 

And we achieved that. Everyone agrees this was a productive meeting and that we need to do more to exchange ideas to articulate solutions to problems and to collaborate on resolving some of the issues pertaining to contractual labour.

Can we expect new regulations to be formed from the outcome of this meeting?

A set of guidelines that were captured in a set of joint declarations by participating countries addressing the seriousness of partnerships could come out of this meeting.

And these could eventually translate into specific joint initiatives, whether bilateral between receiving and sending countries, or multilateral between the two groups of receiving and sending countries.

And these will be common for everyone?

This would be at a later stage, typically. These sort of agreements go through bilateral stages and when more and more countries develop these bilateral agreements and decide that these are actually working for them, they then get together and say: ‘Why not develop a joint multilateral collective agreement?' that everyone signs up to in order to administer the work site better.

How will this affect contracts in the region, along with the way in which people are hired?

We hope it would impact not only contracts but also each phase of the employment cycle, beginning with the recruitment of employees and the point of origin.

What are the problems and the solutions? Such as how do we deal with the problem of recruiters charging exorbitant fees, which typically leads to workers landing in a state of burdened debts?

And how do we collaborate with the governments involved or the group of governments involved? In terms of contracts, we want to make sure the workers understand what the contracts say, that they see it in their own language and that they're aware of what they're getting into when they decide to come and work in a different country.

We also want to make sure that their rights and responsibilities are well laid out for them, and that they know what the government of the country of origin does for them in terms of induction and building awareness.

They also need to know what the receiving country does in terms of preparing them to reside in the country for whatever temporary period is decided on.

Has the meeting helped with understanding the labour flow between these countries?

We have decided that we need to have a joint knowledge base in order to better match supply and demand, and to understand what skillsets are important to who and needed by whom, along with a number of other issues relating to the flow of labour in the region.

I think the meeting couldn't have been more successful and we are planning to meet again soon.

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