Abusing construction workers in UAE

Define the problem

What and why is the problem?

As the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is facing one of the world's largest construction booms, at the time it allows to attract a lot of labors from their own and from different countries especially from south Asia that is Pakistan, India and Srilanka. There are nearly a million construction workers in UAE, so we can see there is large numbers of workers in UAE, so this calls for the exploitation of the construction workers in UAE. There are many problems that the construction workers face these days. Some of the major problems are discussed.

Low wages is of the main accusation of the construction workers in the UAE. The government still has been unwilling to put in place an uncovered minimum wage, in spite of being the that an authorization in the law of dating back from 1980. On date March 21, 2006, nearly about 2,500 construction workers at the Old Town commercial segment of the world famous Burj Dubai complex, know to be the world's tallest tower is under manufacture remonstration their working conditions and their low wages. after the protest turned violent the staff rioted at the end of their shift. The workers had been waiting for a long time to be shifted back to their labor camp. S. Kumar who was a worker of indian origin, was there at the protest. However he did was pnot a part of the rioting, said to Human Rights Watch, he said that he worked at the Burj Dubai site. I am getting 38 AED [$10.50] for working eight hours every day. My pay is more than staff who arrived freshly because I have been working for past 11 years. New workers get payment of 28 AED [$7.60]daily and they are very sad about it. On March 21, the workers who rioted were the new ones. They were worried because after the shift of ours finish. It takes more than an hour to come back out. On March 21, the buses and transportation were postponed for hours. The workers started to make a fuss. The company's safekeeping forces started to hassle them and abuse them orally. This aggravated the rioting. The new workers were trying to remanding their pay raises.

In an additional recent protest, thousands of workers who worked for the Besix named Company, a Brussels based Construction Corporation, thespian a strike demanding for better wages. On May 16, 2006, additional 8,000 Besix workers laid down their gear and refused to work in anticipation of their employers met their demands and other things. A striking worker told reporters, they said that they will not go back to work until their demands are met. They said that were being paid around $106 per month and all they demanded is that they are paid at least $163 per month. Then the company has offered a raise to folks who have been employed [by Besix] for further than 10 years, but that is the marginal of people here. They do not accept that. Then the government deported the 50 Besix construction workers who refused to finish their strike. Philippe Dessoy, the deputy general manager of Besix's supplementary, Six Construct, told Construction Week that "around 50 were taken by police; yet they were not enforced, they went willingly. Then also they did not wanted to go back to work.

A serious health danger faced by construction workers is the great climatic conditions. The mean utmost temperatures in the UAE throughout the months of April to September are quite above 90oF (32oC), with the humidity in excess of more than 80 percent. For the construction workers who have to spend the vast amount of their time working under such these conditions, heat-related illnesses are an expression of dangerous working conditions in UAE. The heat and humidity are measured a health hazard particularly during the months of July and August, at what time temperatures frequently peak above 100oF (38oC) which is quite high.

According to the Dubai episode of the World Safety Organization, heat-related sickness is the most significant health issue in front of construction workers. This consists of heat-stroke as well as dehydration. As several as 5,000 construction workers per month were carry into the accident and the emergency department of Rashid Hospital in Dubai throughout July and August 2004: Dr. G.Y. Naroo, then substitute head of the accident and the emergency section, told the Construction Week, "Our initial evaluation of how many heat connected [cases] that came into the hospital was up to 2,500 per month. But once the inferior assessment was done within the hospital, we understand it came out to be twice."

Media reports declare that the UAE underreports construction employee heat-related deaths in the hospitals. In June 2005, numerous health professionals called for the law banning construction work throughout the afternoons in the time of July and the August. Dr. Rajeev Gupta then told Khaleej Times, throughout the months of the July and the August, when the temperature soars to intolerable limits, UAE records an epidemic of cases where laborers are hospitalized owed to heat strokes and spasms. Heat exhaustion or heat stroke is avoidable if one takes preventive measures. The most significant of which is not to interpretation oneself to the sun from 11 in the morning to 5 in the evening.

In reply, the Ministry of Labor issued a verdict in June 2005 prohibition outdoor work among the hours from 12:30 p.m. till 4:30 p.m. throughout July and August. It resulted in dropping heat-related admittance to hospitals, with Dr. Naroo in the Rashid Hospital, Dubai, influential reporters on July 29 that "merely 1,200 to 1,500 [cases] are expected this month." That the announcement did not go even additional in reducing heat-related admissions is almost certainly since many companies openly unseen itgovernment examiner reported that during July and August 2005, additional 60 percent of the corporation inspected did not follow the daylight break law. The system did not fine a single company for contravention the law. Furthermore, the afternoon breaks rules were not been adopted on a enduring basis. On May 2006, the UAE Contractors' Association (UAECA) vestibule the government to cancel the 2005 decree as "re-introduction of prohibit this year would generate major problems for the division." On July 2006, the Ministry of Labor proclaims that it had shortened the midday break to flank by 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

At the press conference to proclaim the alter, when asked about the know Human Rights Watch November 2006 decrease in hours, Minister of the Labor in UAE Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi said that , "The contractors be supposed to reduce the working hours in the afternoon, as they are the people who have determined the timings." The minister's reply is an obvious indication of the construction industry's aptitude to influence labor laws and system without regard for the health and security of staff.

Causes of the problem?

The main reason for the is due to the fact that many of the migrant workers have paid around in a array of $2,000-$3,000 to the local recruitment agencies in their dwelling countries to obtain the employment funding in the UAE. That is the one of the main reason that these workers work for a very low wage less than normal wage. Usually they have to work a period of 2-3 years to pay off the loan. The other reason that can be possible is that they get attracted by the wealthy and attractive nature of the country (UAE) that tries to show that they many provide many opportunities to a lot of these people. The other reason may those they nearly million people in the construction company

Policy making

How governments react?

The government of UAE has showed a change of the attitude in the matter related to the exploitation of the construction workers. Earlier they used to ignore all the cases of the exploitation of the construction workers, the main reason was that many of the workers were illiterate and they were unable to represent their problem properly and many of the cases were dismissed quickly. But now these matters are not taken lightly because now these cases are now catching momentum the reason due the involvement of the media, human watch right and press. The government has started to take interest in these cases and taking this matter seriously. Now they are making new laws for the benefit of the construction workers working in UAE. They have made in favor migrant workers that any exploitation against them could land the construction company in trouble.

Who tell the government it is a problem?

All the cases of the exploitation of the construction are being told by the media, press, human watch right and some international organization. These were the people that were responsible for the letting know the people and the government of UAE to know about the exploitation of the construction workers. For a couple of the years these things have started to gain momentum and the people and government have started to take interest in these matter. They have realized that what is happing to them is wrong and something should be done about this matter.


The government should make some policies that should protect the rights of the construction workers working in UAE. They should try to make some fundamental policies that will automatically cease the exploitation of the workers. Some of the policies were given in the following paragraph.

  • Establish an very independent commission to explore and publicly the report on the circumstances of the migrant workers who are working in the country.
  • Also prohibit the companies from doing the business with employment agencies, in the UAE and the abroad, that will eventually charge workers fees for the travel, visas, for the employment contracts, or everything else. Accuse and apply significant penalties for the employers and the recruiting agencies that whoever violates the law
  • Another point is that to aggressively investigate and also prosecute the employers who try to violate other provisions of the well know UAE labor law. To impose meaningful and also significant penalties on companies that try to violate workers' rights, and to put conclusion to the near atmosphere of the impunity.
  • To provide the quantitative and the qualitative data on the labor disputes, on the deaths and all the injuries at the construction sites, and the government actions to the address these matter.
  • To abide by the compulsion under the UAE labor law of the 1980 to apply to a minimum wage.
  • To allow for the organization of the genuine and the self-governing human rights and the workers' rights of the concerning organizations. (Building Towers, Cheating Workers , 2006)

Policy formulation and authorization

What the policies or lows or solutions to this problem?

The government should include some separate policies for the construction company that will be mandatory for them to follow. Some of the major points are:

  • Lack of a minimum wage: The construction workers in UAE earn terrible sums ranging from a monthly wages of 380 AED ($107) to 900 AED ($250). Even though according to the 1980 UAE Labor Law openly requires the Ministry of Labor to foundation a minimum wage, it has by no means been put into practice. In Article 63 of the Labor Law states that: The least amount of wage and the cost-of-living directory payable to workers in common or in a exacting area or the occupation shall be fixed by a national decree based on a suggestion to be made by Minister of Labor and Social Affairs and accepted by the Council of Ministers. The Minister will put forward his suggestion for determining, or reviewing, the least wage, after consulting the capable authorities and the labor associations of staff and employers, if any, and after having suggestion to studies and board of the fluctuations in the cost of living file drawn up by the capable authorities in the State, to make sure that the supposed minima are adequate to meet the worker's essential needs and promise his livelihood
  • Absence of trade unions and collective bargaining: The UAE law does not distinguish the right of workers to systematize and to form trade unions. The labor law also does not permit or forbids any kind of strike. The 1980 labor law permits for the employers to hang up workers temporarily without pay in the case of a strike. In a current ministerial resolution aimed at only at migrant workers, the federal government disqualified migrant workers from the service in the country for at a period of one year in the case of "an illegal strike or its commencement."Because workers are not permitted to organize and form the unions, there is no organization representing their welfare. As is widely familiar, unions are the most important medium for workers to communicate complaints with relevant government bodies, to discuss with employers, and to seek structural improvements. (ministry of labour)


It is successful?

By implementing these laws many of the problems will be solved but some of the problems will not be solved which we have to look in the future. If we are making a minimum wage this will be one of the most important improvements in the law. This will help every construction workers to have a minimum wage and that will be incremented in finite period of time. Another law that they can form trade unions will also help to solve the matter to some more extend. By forming trade unions the problem of the workers will be put forward in front of the organization. This is very formal way solving the problem. The trade unions can also make a structure such that they can make laws are in their favor so as minimize the problem they face in their daily work life.

Provide some recommendations to improve these solution

It's good to see that the government of UAE have started to show interest and are working to improve the life of the construction workers. Some of the laws are good enough to make the problem good enough to be ceased. Especially the two laws that to make minimum wage and able to form trade unions. These two laws have greatly solved the problem of the construction workers. But from my point of view I would like suggest that they should some laws that make the construction company should not dare to exploit any employee and in any manner. Another law they should make that any company who are willing to pay more and provide extra facilities to their worker should be provided a tax rebate, by implementing this law it can attract other construction firms to follow this law.


  • Building Towers, Cheating Workers, Volume 18, No. 8(E), Retrieved May 11, 2010, from Human Rights Watch database.
  • Ministry of labour official site, Retrieved May 11, 2010, from http://www.mol.gov.ae/indexEng.aspx#

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