x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Five strikers paid, and going home

Workers only partially paid and the company says they did the best they could, and begin to compensate them after five months without pay.

Five carpenters who were unpaid for months have received their salaries and one-way airline tickets to their home countries. Weeks ago a group of 14 workers went on strike and filed suit against the Al Mushrif Oasis Technical Works, a Dubai-based company that subcontracts a team of 23 carpenters, because they had not been paid for five months.

The group of five men received a settlement of Dh500 each and a ticket home last week in addition to the back pay they were owed. The men were hired out to various projects by Oasis Technical Works, including one on Saadiyat Island. They worked from July to December without pay. When they stopped work in protest, they were removed from their accommodations in Musaffah to a farm in Semeih, 80 kilometres from Dubai.

They filed suit at the labour court in Dubai in December, and the case went to arbitration under the supervision of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which settles collective labour disputes. A representative for Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), which oversees the development of Saadiyat Island, said it "took the matter of late payment of construction workers employed by a sub-contractor very seriously", and became aware of the situation in early January.

"After immediate investigation by our employment relations manager, TDIC closely monitored discussions that took place between our appointed contractor and their sub-contractor to resolve this matter," a spokesman said. Syed Mohammed Afsar, the company supervisor who has been sending some workers home in batches, said he was unable to pay them because his subcontracters were late in paying him. Mr Afsar said all 14 workers wanted to leave the Emirates and return to India and Bangladesh. The last nine will be in court today to receive the remainder of their arbitration-mandated settlement of past-due salaries, a plane ticket and Dh500. But, Mr Afsar said, he could only afford the passage and full salaries for only six of the nine that will appear before the board. He plans to ask for an extension to pay the others.

"We are paying the money through the court," said Mr Afsar. "The court said to give them their salary and Dh500 but we are giving them the ticket also." An additional seven workers have chosen to remain with the company and they have not been paid for work after November. They did not participate in the strike. Sujit Kumar, one of the workers due in court today, will travel from Semeih to Dubai to find out whether he will be paid and sent home.

"We are all just sitting around waiting. There has been no work in the past month," he said. "Even the ones who have agreed to stay with the company and continue working, they too are sitting around doing nothing. I don't think we have any new contracts in hand." @Email:sbhattacharya@thenational.ae