x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Lone case in Dubai tribunal

Employees may have to rely on the courts for their entitlements

While Dubai World has high-level negotiations with the some of the world's largest banks and investment funds over the restructuring of its $24.8bn (Dh91.09bn) of debt, one young Egyptian woman has gone a step further. Asmaa Abd el Ghaffar Khalil, 31, has filed the only claim against a Dubai World company in the special tribunal set up last year to hear cases in the conglomerate's restructuring.

The details of her case form a stark contrast to the headline-grabbing developments of the last year, but point to a larger trend of employee disputes that has arisen after the onset of the financial crisis. Ms Khalil is seeking about Dh95,000 in end of service dues and holiday pay that she claims to be owed by Limitless, a property developer owned by Dubai World, according to documents made available by the tribunal. She is representing herself in the proceedings.

"The UAE has laws," the Ms Khalil, from Cairo, said in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. "I'm trying to uphold my rights, regardless of who I am ? I have to stand on my own two feet." Ms Khalil arrived in Dubai on June 15 in 2008 to join Limitless as a quality-assurance specialist. But just a year later, she was unemployed, court documents show. "There was no explanation, no reason," she said. "They sent a letter saying it was my last working day."

Ms Khalil said she filed a case in the Dubai Courts soon after to obtain three months of service benefits and holiday pay that she did not receive. Then when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued a decree creating the Dubai World Tribunal for all claims against the company, her case was moved to the tribunal. An initial hearing has not yet been set. "I've been here nine months and I can't find a job," she said. "But I will wait 10 years to get this money."

Limitless declined to comment because the matter was a continuing legal issue. Ms Khalil said the company had transferred about a third of the amount she was owed after the case reached the tribunal, but she will continue the proceedings until she recovers the full Dh95,000. Ms Khalil's case is the only proceeding to be filed with the tribunal so far, officials said. The claim is just one of a rash of similar cases filed in other courts across the Emirates in the past 18 months, lawyers said.

"When the economic downturn really struck, we did notice a huge increase in contentious employment matters," said Alexander McGeoch, a partner in the employment practice at Hadef and Partners. "This is starting to have an impact on the way companies hire staff now in terms of the way the contract sets out compensation." In Dubai, about 15 per cent of the labour force was laid off last year, according to Marios Maratheftis, the head of research in the region at Standard Chartered.

Ms Khalil, who is representing herself in the claim, said she planned to fight her case for as long as it took. "I just want to be compensated in the correct way," she said. "My rights are my rights." bhope@thenational.ae In the original version of this article, The National incorrectly stated that Asmaa Abd el Ghaffar Khalil worked at Limitless for 10 days due to an error in court documents. She worked at Limitless for one year from June 15, 2008, to June 25, 2009. .