x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

National debate call on UAE public/private sector pay and hours divide

The nation needs solutions to find employment for UAE nationals, a special Federal National Council discussion panel on Emiratisation in the private sector was told.

The FNC meeting at the Science and Culture Association with Mubarak A. Al Mehairbi. Antonie Robertson / The National
The FNC meeting at the Science and Culture Association with Mubarak A. Al Mehairbi. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // The nation needs solutions to find employment for UAE nationals, a special FNC discussion panel on Emiratisation in the private sector was told.

"Efforts … for citizens who can't find jobs in their own country have to be made," said Sheikha Eisa Ghanem (Umm Al Quwain), the only woman elected to the FNC, who moderated the discussion.

The FNC's committee on Health, Labour and Social Affairs was joined by figures from the public and private sector to address the issue.

The committee chairman, Salim Al Amen (Abu Dhabi), said one of the problems was the difference in salary and working hours between the public and the private sectors, on which the Minister of Labour, Saqr Ghobash, had urged a national debate.

Another hurdle highlighted by a guest speaker was the growing demand for engineers.

"Almost 80 per cent of our jobs require specialised engineering studies rather than administrative ones," said Mubarak Al Mehairbi, manager of the human resources planning and recruitment division of Adnoc.

Nevertheless, he said, Emiratis comprised 30 per cent of the more than 50,000 Adnoc employees, and the aim was to increase that to 75 per cent.

Ibrahim Al Hashimi, assistant manager of human resources at Al Futtaim Group, said he blamed the Ministry of Labour for the lack of Emirati presence in the private sector workforce.

"Regarding the problems of Emiratisation, it is my opinion that the Ministry of Labour is mainly responsible for these problems. The ministry allowed the private sector to behave the way it behaves."

He said numerous legal articles were in place that, if followed, would not allow the current overwhelming majority of expatriates in the private sector.

They included allowing recruitment of non-Emiratis only once it was proved no registered Emirati job seekers could fill the position, he said.

"The labour law doesn't require modification. It only requires activation. It isn't merely an issue of salaries or working hours. Working hours in the public sector are already nine to nine and a half hours," he said.

Mr Al Hashimi said a minister had tried to implement these laws in 2006, giving human resources departments in private companies an 18-month period to recruit Emiratis.

"The 18 months has turned into seven years, because without proper sanctions, private companies behave as they please," he said.

Another committee member, Faisal Al Tenisi (Ras Al Khaimah), said the discussion was just one of many steps in addressing the important issue.

"There will be more discussions and debate regarding the matter which will end with us speaking to the Minister of Labour.

"Coming from a private sector background I know how important it is to encourage employment of Emiratis in the private sector," the business owner said.

Mr Al Amen said the committee would submit its recommendations to the full FNC.

tsubaihi@thenational.ae