ABU DHABI // Thousands of labourers will move into new, high-quality apartments next year, built as part of a push to improve their living standards.
The emirate has invested Dh20 billion to construct 23 labour cities. They already house almost 200,000 people but will eventually accommodate nearly double that amount.
The Ministry of Labour has introduced wage protection schemes and continued the pattern of previous years of giving workers a three-hour break in the middle of the day during the hottest months of summer.
Land for the cities was set aside in 2005 in industrial zones of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. They offer sports and social activities, parks, markets, mosques, cinemas, internet facilities and cable television.
They have health clinics and hospitals, supervised hygiene and food services and security.
The workers’ city in Al Ain opened in May and accommodates 5,690 residents but could eventually be increased to house more than 10,000.
Mubarak Saeed Al Dhahiri, undersecretary at the Ministry of Labour, said “operation village” would improve the quality of labour accommodations in Al Ain.
There are about 160,000 labourers in the Al Ain region.
The ministry has been cracking down on hygiene standards at existing camps, conducting regular inspections and fining more than 5,000 companies between June 2010 and May this year.
Abu Dhabi requires workers to be accommodated off-site, rather than on construction sites or in other crowded places with unsanitary conditions.
In May 2009, the Government launched its Wages Protection System to guarantee that workers’ salaries were transferred to their own bank accounts each month.
Companies that do not participate are fined and banned from hiring.
Professional catering companies have been brought in to prevent workers having to eat meals prepared in unsanitary conditions.
They are regulated and inspected by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.
The municipality has also set up an electronic monitoring system to ensure companies adhere to health, safety and environmental standards for workers. Permits to proceed with work are only granted if these standards are met.