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Another step forward for workers' rights

posted on 02/12/2006: 1720 views

As evolution of the labour market demands a new set of rules and regulations, work on modifying the labour law was the central focus of the Ministry of Labour this year.

Dr Ali Abdullah Al Ka'abi, Minister of Labour earlier said that a new law needs to be developed to keep pace with the progress in the country.

"Rules and regulations have to be flexible and the main bulk of the law will be set to regulate the relationship between the employer and the employee," said Al Ka'abi. A list of rules and regulations will be issued together with the law, which will explain the details for its implementation.

According to Dr Al Ka'abi, the new law includes regulations that will protect workers' rights.

With the expansion of the labour market, the need for a modified labour law had become pressing as the current law dates back to 1980.

Since 2004, labour protests have been frequently reported in local and international media and the situation worsened in 2005.

The chain of protests alarmed the officials in the country and made them more determined to tackle problems concerning workers' rights. This resulted not only in the introduction of the modified labour law but also a number of other initiatives.

In an effort to curb protests and secure the rights of workers, the Human Rights Department of the Dubai Police established the free hotline (8005005) in October 2005 to register labour complaints. The hotline is connected to the Dubai Police operations room and on receiving a labour complaint, a team from the Human Rights Department visits the scene and settles the issue.

According to the statistics issued by the Department, the team has received 219 complaints by June and by the end of April 2006, they had visited 89 companies, solved group complaints of 36,046 labourers and were able to settle dues amounting to Dh30.62 million.

Major Arif Baqer, acting director of the department, earlier said that when the hotline was initially launched it received 10 to 20 calls a day, but the calls had now declined to five to 10.

The Ministry of Labour has issued a decision stipulating a compulsory midday break for labourers working outdoors during the hottest time of the day in July and August, to protect them from heat exhaustions and heat stroke.

The midday break rule was first introduced in 2004, but the ministry was more stringent this year in enforcing penalties in the form of fines and stopping transactions of companies that failed to adhere to the rule.

A majority of the large companies now abide by the rule and most violating companies are small businesses, according to ministry officials who evaluate the overall experiment as successful.

According to studies conducted by Dubai government, the new weekend aligned the UAE's work week closely with the majority of other countries.

A cabinet decision issued in May stipulated a shift of the government sector weekend from Thursday-Friday to Friday-Saturday, starting from September 1.

A senior official had earlier said that one of the main objectives of the shift is to create harmony between the public and private sectors.

While the Ministry of Labour issued a decision making the shift compulsory for all governmental bodies, it left it optional for the private sector. However, a majority of the companies in the private sector already had the Friday-Saturday weekend.

Many workers appreciate the new weekend as it enables them to spend more time with family and friends. (Gulf News)


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