x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

UAE medical centre staff quit over 'withheld pay'

The German Medical Centre in Al Rawdah has been losing staff over the past few months and currently only has one doctor left.

The German Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi, where some staff have resigned over delays in pay and new contracts. Delores Johnson / The National
The German Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi, where some staff have resigned over delays in pay and new contracts. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // Staff at a popular medical centre are saying they are leaving their jobs after having wages withheld, meaning patients’ appointments are being cancelled.

The Al Rawdah German Medical Centre, has been losing staff at a rapid rate over the past few months, employees say.

Those who continue to work at the facility, despite saying they have not received wages since January, are in the process of cancelling patient appointments.

When the centre was fully staffed, the clinic would see between 70 and 100 people a day.

Problems started to arise last year after a change in management, said a former staff member, who has since found work elsewhere.

“The financial difficulties started about June/July, with the payments being late with our salaries. Otherwise, everything else was fine,” said the female expatriate, who asked to remain anonymous.

“There are so many people who have not been paid.”

While some former staff have been able to afford to stay in the country while they try to reach a settlement with their former employer, others have had to move back to their home countries.

Staff claimed they were not given warning about their wages being delayed.

“We were being told that this was all a technical issue with the change of management; that the money was there but there were issues,” the female expatriate said.

Emails sent to the new management were largely ignored, staff also claimed, with the issue coming to a head in January.

Hermann Sieler, the general manager of the centre, said that over the past four or five months the company had been trying to restructure and that involved changes to staff contracts. Most staff had now been paid, he said.

He denied that staff had not been informed of the impending contract changes, saying there had been meetings to explain the situation and some of the doctors had initially agreed to what had been proposed.

Some employees are claiming, however, that besides not being paid they have also not been given their end-of-service gratuities and cannot look for other employment until the dispute is over.

“The problem is, I have resigned, and I got my resignation acceptance and everything but, because they owe me two salaries and my end-of-service benefits, I cannot cancel my visa,” one said.

“Effectively, for the last six weeks, I’ve been prevented from working. All my other colleagues have the same issue.”

If employees were to sign off on their visas being cancelled, they would have to also sign a waiver stating they had received all due wages.

When wages were eventually paid to staff last month, they said there was an unexplained reduction in salaries.

New contracts, which former and current employees claimed were not given to them to sign, were given as the reason behind the cut in pay.

“The contract was a considerable reduction of salary,” the male former employee said. “We were already two behind and then the one that came in January was considerably lower.”

Mr Sieler said: “We had to change a number of things in the company. We had to look at the spending. Up until now, the centre was financed by German investors.

“But we have told them, we have signed agreements, we have the new partner and we will talk to everybody to find out a new base.”

Most staff received their pay for February, said Mr Sieler. Some, who have gone to court, will not be able to receive wages until legal proceedings are over, he added.