Contractor lauds improvement in UAE worker conditions

Greater education has contributed to a significant improvement in the treatment of construction workers in the country, the head of Beaver Gulf told Construction Week

Better education has improved labour conditions for construction workers.
Better education has improved labour conditions for construction workers.

Migrant labour conditions have improved significantly in the UAE, the chief executive officer of Beaver Gulf, Rajesh Kumar Krishna said.

Krishna told Construction Week that the UAE government’s efforts to enhance labour conditions had led to a significant improvement for migrant construction workers in the country.

“The proactive steps that have been taken by various government departments is showing the results on the ground by reducing - across the board - the number of incidents,” he said.

READ: Who should be accountable for GCC labour safety?

The majority of problems around labour rights have been eradicated since the introduction of the Wage Protection System (WPS) in 2009, according to Krishna.

“The number [of problems] has come down drastically when we compare this to five or 10 years back in the UAE.”

Krishna spoke to Construction Week after an article in the National reported that there had been a “large rise” in the number of legal cases filed by labourers against their employers.

Citing figures from the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, the newspaper said there were 10 cases filed with the public prosecution office over unpaid wages last year. More than double this figure (22) had already been filed between January and 19 March this year, the reported added.

However, while legal cases filed with the public prosecution office have reportedly increased, Krishna said the figure may not mean an actual increase in mistreatment.

“The rise in the number of cases could be due to [better] education of the labourers, but that doesn’t mean actual malpractice is going up,” he said. “It is on the downward [path]. Indeed, there are various checks and regulations put in place by the government over the last four years which is helping to bring down the number of cases – reported and unreported – drastically.”

In addition to the WPS, these measures include a toll-free number that labourers can call to lodge unpaid wage claims, and a bus that travels to labour camps offering legal advice to workers.

For example, in February 2017 the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department reported that its mobile court had lodged legal action for 1,700 workers in 2016.

The mobile court is one of a several measures introduced by the UAE government that Krishna said he believed had helped to improve labour conditions for construction workers.

“Whatever government actions have been taken – in terms of wage protection, labour market regulation or greater education of labour force. […] have helped to bring down number the cases of malpractice in the market.”

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