x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

70 workers arrested in Dubai following unrest

The men, who were among 3,000 Arabtec labourers who stopped work to demand a wage increase, are now in custody.

DUBAI //Police have confirmed that the construction workers who instigated a 3,000-man protest over wage increases at Arabtec are likely to be deported.

“We intend to deport the workers whose involvement is proven,” said Col Mohammed al Mur, director general of the Dubai Police General Department of Legal and Disciplinary Control.

“We cannot keep people here who create disorder,” he said. “Their presence in the country is dangerous and therefore we need to take action against them.”

Seventy Arabtec workers were arrested on Tuesday in connection with the protest, which began two weeks ago. At the time, about 3,000 Arabtec workers went on strike, demanding a salary increase.

The vast majority of workers returned to work yesterday.

Col al Mur said the workers had returned to work without any promises from the company to increase their salaries.

However, a Bangladeshi ambassador said he believed the company had agreed to increase wages by Dh150 per month when renewing the workers’ contracts.  Most of the protesting workers are from Bangladesh.

Nazmul Quauanine, the Bangladeshi ambassador to the UAE, said the workers currently receive a basic salary of Dh650 per month.

Mr Quauanine said the majority of the workers had reported back to work yesterday, after the company and most of the labourers reached an agreement.

Arabtec Construction refused to comment, despite repeated requests.

The arrested workersremained in custody, where they were being questioned in relation to inciting a protest and creating trouble at their camp in the Jebel Ali Industrial area.

Col al Mur said: “Depending on the extent of their actual involvement in the disorder, and depending on the veracity of claims that they threatened and coerced their co-workers into not working, we will decide what legal action will be taken against them.”

Negotiations between the workers, the company and authorities have been ongoing since the labour action began.
The colonel said many workers had expressed a desire to go back to work, but claimed this group had prevented them from doing so.

“We had been trying to provide solutions to the problem for the last 10 days,” Col al Mur said.

“We gave workers the option to either go back to work or ask the company to cancel their papers and send them back home. Currently, most of the workers are weighing up these two options.”

Mr Quauanine, the Bangladeshi ambassador, said his consulate had asked police to settle the matter as peacefully as possible within the local legal framework.

“The police must have had a good reason to detain these workers, but we are requesting them to settle the issue peacefully,” he said.

Mr Quauanine also said he believed the workers’ wage increase demands were legitimate, as many of them had reached the end of their contract period.

As per UAE labour law, he said, during the negotiation stage surrounding a new contract, there is scope for labourers to request an increase in wages.

He added, however, that such requests should be done within the legal framework of the UAE.

“The behaviour of some workers might not have been in line with expected norms when negotiating wages, and they might have lost their temper,” he said.

Arabtec workers have previously protested their wages. In November 2007, about 30,000 Arabtec workers went on a 10-day strike to demand a salary hike.

wissa@thenational.ae

 

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