x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Consulate shelter for unpaid workers

Sixteen Bangladeshis awaiting salaries camped out in park after employer closed, but former colleague says there's little money left for them.

The abandoned construction workers rest at the temporary shelter.
The abandoned construction workers rest at the temporary shelter.

DUBAI // A group of construction workers living in electric substations while waiting for thousands of dirhams in unpaid wages has been moved into temporary accommodation.

But a former employee of Robust Contracting Company has warned that the firm has little money left to pay the 16 men, as most of its assets and its bank guarantee had gone to other creditors.

The Bangladeshi labourers had been camped out in Dubai Investments Park (DIP) 2 more than a month after a Dubai court warned Robust its assets would be liquidated if it did not pay them.

"The owners owe more than Dh220 million to labour-supply companies and workers," said the former employee of the company, which was shut down by the courts.

"Only Dh24,000 is left from the bank guarantee."

The men said they had been shifted into temporary quarters in Deira yesterday by the Bangladeshi consulate, which confirmed the move but would not give any other details of the case.

On Monday Mahboub Hasan, who was a camp boss, said the men were increasingly uncomfortable at DIP.

"It is very hard now since it's starting to get extremely hot," Mr Hasan said. "We are cooking in the open."

The Dubai Labour Court issued a notice on April 3 giving Robust 15 days to pay the salaries but nothing has happened.

Last month, the Bangladeshi consulate stopped seven of the company's workers, including Mr Hasan, from being deported, saying their salaries must be paid first.

Records from the Dubai Labour Court show Robust owes workers millions of dirhams and there are many labour suits pending.

No information on the value of Robust's assets was available.

The company had offered to pay each worker Dh2,000 plus flight tickets a few months ago. Nine workers took up the offer.

Robust owes the 16 Bangladeshi workers between Dh5,200 and Dh9,300 each, court records show.

In 2009, hundreds of men downed tools over non-payment of salaries by Robust for nearly six months. The company also failed to pay salaries in 2007 and 2008, according to the Ministry of Labour.

The former Robust worker blamed the owners for the problems.

"All this happened because of poor management," she said.

The workers on Monday said they would wait for the court to give its final decision.

"If I get my money, I will go back home," said Mohammed Latif, who worked as a mason.

Mr Hasan said: "If the court tells us the company cannot pay us and asks us to accept lesser compensation, we will take what is given to us and look for new jobs."

But yesterday he said the 16 men would hold out for payment in full.

pkannan@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Salam Al Amir